LOCAL AUTHORITIES will be obliged to make sure there are enough schools to meet demand when drawing up development plans, under a major piece of planning policy being proposed by the Government.
The new protocol - which will be backed by regulations - is designed to prevent problems where rapid population growth in certain areas has led to inadequate school places to meet demand.
In Balbriggan, north Dublin, in 2007, new schools were established as an emergency measure when existing schools were unable to cope because of a rapid growth in population on the back of a house-building boom.
The Schools Planning Protocol is a joint initiative of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Education in response to that situation.
It will be published by both departments tomorrow.
The protocol will set out a code of practice for local authorities to ensure the planning system is more efficient in identifying quickly where there is demand for schools and locating appropriate sites that will allow the timely construction of schools.
It will be underpinned by new regulations that will require local authorities to adhere to the code in its development plans.
The initiative has been driven by Minister of State for the Environment Michael Finneran in conjunction with the senior Minister John Gormley and Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe.
Briefing material seen by The Irish Times states that it will integrate the provision of schools more closely with the drawing up of development plans.
Sources close to the project have said that it will make sure that where large new housing developments are being built, there is adequate school provision for all the families that will inevitably live there.
It stressed the requirement of county councils and city councils to engage with the Department of Education before land is zoned or rezoned for substantial residential development.
The initiative is one of a number of new measures on planning being organised by the Department of the Environment.
Mr Gormley will present three new regulations to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment tomorrow, aimed at streamlining the planning code.
One of the regulations also relates to schools. It will provide exemptions for minor school development works and temporary school facilities, such as prefabricated buildings.
In future, small extensions to school buildings, or what are described as "temporary school facilities" will not require planning permission.
A further regulation will also make certain renewable technologies exempt from planning permission requirement. Last year, such exemptions were introduced for solar panels, micro wind turbines and heat pumps for domestic use.
The new regulations extend the facility to renewable energy technologies for use across industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors.
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