The objective of this designation is protection of scenic landscapes and amenities at local authority level by means of planning control.
It is a generic term covering amenity-zoning terms used by local authorities in their development plans, such as –
Areas of High Amenity Value
Areas of Special Scenic Importance
Special policy Area
In Ireland every local authority produces a development plan for their area which now must have provisions if there are any areas which merit special control (mainly on the basis of landscape protection). Such areas enjoy no direct statutory legal backing but have indirect legal force through County Development Plans provided for by the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 and subsequent amendments, acts and regulations.
Local authorities are the responsible authority and follow guidelines issued by the Minister for the Environment on designation of Areas of Special Control in County Development Plans. The 1992 memorandum to local authorities from the minister called ‘Development Control: Advice and Guidelines’ supported development where possible, without an unduly restrictive approach to environmental protection.
Protection of such areas by this designation is more likely if the area in question is threatened by development pressure. Also the degree of enforcement of planning controls varies from county to county, depending on the interest and commitment of officials and local politicians, the level of public participation, and the degree of development pressure.
Local authorities powers under the designation are control over all developments listed in Planning Acts and outlined in the Development Plan, there is no control over exempted developments (most agricultural activities).
This designation type is available to local authorities to protect the environment and biodiversity. Planning authorities may designate Areas of Special Control in County Development Plans to identify land where stricter planning controls apply to protect scenic landscapes, amenities and areas of ecological interest.