The objective of the Special Amenity Area Order is primarily to protect outstanding landscapes, nature and amenities. They gained initial legal backing under the local authorities (Planning and Development) Act 1963 and subsequent amendments (e.g. local government (Planning and Development) act 1999).
Powers gained once a site is designated include control over all developments listed in planning acts and outlined in development plans, control is gained over some exempt developments while normal re zoning is not permitted.
Local authorities must initially propose the site for designation which the minister of the environment then approves. The local authority is then responsible for enforcements within the Special Amenity Area.
The area proposed for designation should be of ‘outstanding beauty’ needing nature conservation or have special recreational value in local terms.
The Special Amenity Area Order would appear to be the best existing designation for protecting ‘green belts’ which are subjected to intense development pressure or land areas under pressure from development which is of special amenity value locally or regionally.
Initially three Special Amenity Area Orders were designated in Ireland. All are within the greater Dublin area and are not directly concerned with the protection of biodiversity
These Special Amenity Area Orders were the Liffey Valley, North Bull Island and Howth Head.
Special Amenity Area Orders, once designated are subject to review every five years by the relevant local authorities.