TII is currently developing a series of environmental guidelines to facilitate further the integration of various environmental issues into national road scheme planning.
The development of such Guidelines requires consultation with various relevant stakeholders to ensure that a national approach for the treatment of environmental issues is adopted and that they contribute to the development of national road infrastructure in a sustainable fashion.
In 2006, the Authority published A Guide to Landscape Treatments for National Road Schemes in Ireland (National Roads Authority, 2006) (the ‘Guide’). This policy document outlines the philosophy adopted by the NRA in relation to the design of Irish roadside landscapes; in particular, it espouses the use of an ‘ecological landscape design’ approach to landscape design and the establishment of landscape treatments on national road schemes.
Whilst the Guide illustrates in detail the NRA’s philosophy with regard to landscape treatments, the NRA considers it appropriate to supplement the Guide with a document outlining some of the practical steps required to implement the NRA’s philosophy on landscape design and landscaping works in the various phases of national road project management. The purpose of the Guidelines on the Implementation of Landscape Treatments on National Road Schemes in Ireland is not to summarise the Guide. These guidelines, instead, focus on the roles and responsibilities of the various relevant parties involved during the project management phases, including the: Environmental Impact Assessment (‘EIA’) landscape and visual expert; EIA ecological expert; Employers’ or Authority’s Representative; Contractor or PPP Company; Designer; and, those involved in the execution of the landscape treatments, e.g. landscape sub-contractor and nursery/supplier. It is anticipated that this approach will improve the implementation of the Authority’s philosophy on landscape design.
Noise and Vibration
The Authority has undertaken a review of the initial draft Guidelines for the Treatment of Noise and Vibration in National Road Schemes. This review was based on the experiences acquired from the implementation of the original draft guidelines and on a validation study that was undertaken to assess the applicability of the specified design criteria and the functionality of the various Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) conversion methodologies for Irish road conditions. This review provides guidance on the revised design criteria and the application of validated approaches to deriving the Lden values as well as an overview of the baseline monitoring and model validation procedure.
The new Good Practice Guidance for the Treatment of Noise during the Planning of National Road Schemes is based on the lessons learned from post EIA noise evaluations studies and research undertaken on the design of noise barriers. It provides advice and information for use by acousticians and it is also relevant for traffic, motorway and pavement engineers. The advice amplifies and supplements the original noise guidelines and it should be read in conjunction with that document.
The aim of the Guidelines for Assessment of Ecological Impacts of National Road Schemes is to provide guidance on the assessment of impacts on the natural environment during the planning and design of national road schemes. It elaborates on the references to ecology (habitats, flora and fauna) contained in the National Roads Project Management Guidelines, which provides the overall framework for managing the planning and design of national road schemes. In particular, the guidelines expand on the ecological work to be undertaken at the Constraints Study phase, Route Corridor Selection phase and the subsequent preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This document was revised in 2009 to align it with changes in legislative, best practice and policy requirements with regard to Ecological Impact Assessment arising since the previous revision in March, 2006. With regard to best practice and policy requirements the revisions take account of the procedure for the ecological component of EIA laid down in the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management’s (IEEM) (2006) Guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment in the United Kingdom. These Guidelines have also been revised to synchronise them with the supplementary guidance document: the NRA’s Ecological Surveying Techniques for Protected Flora and Fauna during the Planning of National Road Schemes published in 2008. With regard to legislative requirements, the Guidelines provide more detailed information on certain relevant environmental law provisions, including: Regulations 25 and 30/33 of the Habitats Regulations, 1997; Articles 6(3) and 6(4) of the Habitats Directive; and the Environmental Liability Directive.
Flora and Fauna
The NRA Guidelines for Assessment of Ecological Impacts of National Road Schemes were recently updated to incorporate, inter alia, the requirements of Article 30 of the 1997 Habitat Regulations (S.I.No.94 of 1997). The purpose of these ‘Ecology Guidelines’ is to provide guidance on the assessment of impacts on the natural environment during the planning stages of national road schemes. The document Ecological Surveying Techniques for Protected Flora and Fauna during the Planning of National Road Schemes is intended to supplement the ‘Ecology Guidelines’ by providing advice on procedures and survey techniques to inform the Natural Environment section of the Constraints Study, Route Corridor Selection Study and the EIS for new schemes and improvements. These survey techniques are also intended to be appropriate to be undertaken prior to maintenance activities that could have implications for the natural environment. The document provides guidance on generic survey techniques for habitats, plants and fungi; terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates; fish; amphibians; reptiles; birds and mammals. Species specific techniques are also presented, in the form of ‘Key Cards’, for those protected species that are likely to be affected by road projects.
The Authority has developed a set of guidelines - Guidelines for the Assessment of Architectural Heritage Impacts of National Road Schemes - to provide a consistent approach to assessing the impacts of road schemes on architectural heritage at the Route Selection and EIA stages of project planning, and to designing, implementing and managing mitigation proposals in a sustainable manner. The Authority is conscious that the adopted methodology should embrace local characteristics rather than standardised solutions.
The aim of the Guidelines for the Assessment of Archaeological Heritage Impacts of National Road Schemes is to provide a consistent approach to assessing the impacts of road schemes on archaeological heritage at the Constraints, Route Selection and EIA stages of road planning, and to designing and implementing mitigation proposals in a sustainable manner.
EIA - Practical Guide
The objective of the Authority’s guidelines - Environmental Impact Assessment of National Road Schemes - A Practical Guide - is to ensure that the EIA process for road schemes continues to follow correct statutory procedures while at the same time achieving quality and consistency in the assessment and mitigation of environmental impacts. This document was revised in November 2008 to align it with changes to legislation, best practice and policy requirements with regard to EIA arising since its original publication in 2005. The revisions incorporate a number of relevant legislative changes, including those brought about through the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act, 2006; the Roads Act, 2007; the Road (Schemes) (Forms) Regulations, 2008 (S.I. No. 49 of 2008), and the Waste Management Act, 1996-2008. With regard to best practice and policy requirements, the document now incorporates and cross references a number of new and revised NRA planning and construction guidelines. These guidelines include: Guidelines for the Management of Waste from National Road Construction Projects (National Roads Authority, 2008); Guidelines for Assessment of Ecological Impacts of National Road Schemes (Revision 2, National Roads Authority, 2008); Traffic and Transport Assessment Guidelines (National Roads Authority, September 2007); Guidelines for the Treatment of Air Quality During the Planning and Construction of National Road Schemes (National Roads Authority, 2006), and the Project Appraisal Guidelines (National Roads Authority, 2008). The document also accommodates the requirements of the National Development Plan, 2007-2013, Transport 21, National Climate Change Strategy, 2007-2012 and 2020 Vision – Sustainable Travel and Transport.
Bat Species, Habitats and Roosts
All bat species in Ireland are legally protected under the Wildlife Act, 1976, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000, and under Annex IV of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). There is additional protection under Annex II of the Habitats Directive for lesser horseshoe bats. The Habitats Directive is transposed into Irish law in the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997 (S.I. 94 of 1997). The Habitats Directive provides protection for the habitats and roosts of all bat species, as well as the bats themselves. Under Annex II of the Directive, all roost sites of the lesser horseshoe bat are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and the bats are specially protected throughout the species’ range. By increasing the level of protection for vulnerable species (those listed in Annex II), it is hoped to maintain their international populations at viable levels. However, in exceptional circumstances, exemptions are made where there is no alternative to the destruction of the roost. The Authority recognises the importance of protecting all bat species in Ireland and has prepared guidance documents for the protection of bats during planning and construction stages of national road schemes. The document Best Practice Guidelines for the Conservation of Bats in the Planning of National Road Schemes has been published.
Geology, Hydrology and Hydrogeology
In Ireland in the recent past, the impact of development on the earth’s surface and sub-surface has generally tended to receive limited attention in EIAs. The aim of the document Guidelines on Procedures for Assessment and Treatment of Geology, Hydrology and Hydrogeology for National Road Schemes is to provide guidance on the assessment of geological, hydrological and hydrogeological impacts during the planning and design of national road schemes in Ireland. It specifically outlines the approach to be adopted in the consideration and treatment of geology, hydrology and hydrogeology at the Constraints Study, Route Corridor Selection and Preliminary Design/EIA phases.
The guideline document A Guide to Landscape Treatments for National Road Schemes in Ireland promotes an ‘Ecological Landscape Design’ approach in the selection of appropriate landscape treatments for national road schemes. The approach provides for an integrated understanding of the various cultural, social and ecological aspects of landscape design where selected treatments utilise and enhance the positive aspects of ‘Road Ecosystems’ such as the extent of area of roadside verge afforded by the design of the modern road ecosystem. The document identifies various landscape functions and treatments and promotes a better synergy between the professions of ecology and landscape design to maximize the promotion of natural biodiversity in landscape treatments. The treatment functions include landscape integration, visual screening, nature conservation and biodiversity, landscape and visual amenity, built amenity and cultural and heritage amenity. In particular, the guidelines promote the use of native species from indigenous seed stands in an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective way so as to produce long-term self-sustaining landscape treatments that are underpinned by resource management. This use of native species is an objective of national and international policy including the National Biodiversity Plan (2002) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and contributes to Ireland’s commitments under the EU Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC.
The revised guideline document Guidelines for the Treatment of Air Quality during the Planning and Construction of National Road Schemes provides a step-by-step approach for the integration of air quality considerations into the various planning phases of the 2010 National Roads Project Management Guidelines (NRPMG). This revised document incorporates new policies and best practice findings resulting from the post-EIA air quality evaluation research studies. Revisions include, requirements for reporting and archiving data, procedures to address PM2.5 particulates, revised and updated procedures for addressing background pollutant concentration and monitoring, additional information on the approach to dispersion modelling, changes in the approach to future year projections of monitoring data, update on trend analysis for NOx and NO2 concentrations, revised approach to assessing significance criteria, and the incorporation of an approach for the derivation of regional background concentrations for the NOx:NO2 model.