The development of effective infrastructure relies on a management system employing spatial planning. Through the National Spatial Strategy, planning in Ireland has sought to promote balanced regional development and this has recently been advanced through an integrated approach between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Geoscience information on Ireland's surface, subsurface and offshore has an important role to play in this process, providing support to decision making in areas as diverse as land-use planning, motorway development, protection of clean water supplies and maritime safety. Thus geoscience promotes effective economic development without having negative impacts on ecosystems or the physical environment.
GSI provides systematic information through its mapping programmes. Onshore, the resulting Bedrock and Quaternary Maps contain information on the solid rock and loose materials, respectively, which form the foundations and context for all linear and urban developments and construction. Full national bedrock coverage is available on a scale of 1:100,000 and individual maps are available in digital form. In addition, national seamless coverage is available and clip-outs of desired areas can be provided. A new bedrock mapping programme at a scale of 1:50,000 has begun, with a focus on providing point data which allow users to evaluate map quality. A map is already available for Wexford. Sheet 28a (Monaghan) and a special Burren sheet were completed this year, and current mapping is targeted on East Galway where weaknesses have been identified in existing mapping. Partial national Quaternary coverage is available, and the map opposite distinguishes between two separate quality levels. High quality mapping is currently ongoing and focused on the Midlands area, supported by drilling and geophysical techniques (in cooperation with NUI Maynooth). During 2007 a total of 237 boreholes were drilled for a cumulative length of 2582.4m in support of land-based programmes. Eight of these were cored for bedrock information, the remainder were augered in subsoils.
The Geourban Dublin project is designed to provide integrated 3D geological information (both Bedrock and Quaternary) for the greater Dublin urban area (Sheet 50)and resulting map products will be available in 2009. Already, 3D information for urban and motorway areas is made available through the Geotechnical Database, which is populated with drilling results from construction sites across the country.
The Geotechnical Map Viewer (www.gsi.ie/mapping) provides access to about 11,500 boreholes and trial pits, which is the total digitised to date from a geotechnical database of 35,000 records. The map highlights the areas for which digitised data are available.
High quality aggregates are essential for infrastructural development and while Ireland is fortunate to have significant sources of suitable aggregates, both onshore and offshore, it is important that they are preserved for future exploitation and are not sterilised by competing land uses. Aggregate Potential Mapping (APM) is undertaken by GSI, taking account of its mapping and database resources, to create a scientific basis for targeted and environmentally-friendly management of aggregate resources. APM was recently completed in Donegal, Meath and Wicklow. With 2006 production estimated at 165 million tonnes it is critical to locate these resources as close as possible to their point of use in order to minimise the very considerable carbon footprint that their transport represents.
Ireland is fortunate in having an exceptional range of geological heritage, comprising unique landscapes such as the Burren and scenic mountainous areas, as well as specific localities with features of scientific significance. The Irish Geological Heritage Programme of GSI has developed an impartial process to recognise priorities in geological heritage at national (National Heritage Areas) and local (County Development Plans) levels.
Support for policy and regulation remains a priority for GSI. For example, GSI is consulted in relation to planning permissions and environmental impact statements (EIS), and this ensures adequate account is taken of GSI databases, including databases on geotechnical information and geological heritage. GSI responded to 181 notifications on EIS and planning applications during 2007 (compared to 97 in 2006).
GSI requires new datasets in order to provide satisfactory information on new infrastructural development as well as to underpin decision-making on environmental protection. These datasets involve modern collection techniques, including some that are satellite based (Terrafirma) and airborne (RESI). For example, interpretation of the 2006 RESI (Resource and Environmental Survey of Ireland) pilot surveys in cooperation with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has indicated that high resolution refinements in radon hazard mapping can be achieved. Previous information for the Castleisland area of County Kerry comprised the indoor radon prediction map (based on a 10km grid) produced by RPII (on the left), compared with the high resolution 100m grid (on the right) produced through RESI.