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Friday 19 July 2019

Permission for 200 homes denied as plans ignored impact on bats

Bats are protected by EU law
Bats are protected by EU law

The High Court has quashed a decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission for more than 200 homes in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Southwood Park Residents Association challenged the board's permission last February for Cairn Homes' 7.9-acre development on the grounds of Chesterfield House, a protected structure, on Cross Avenue.

The application, because it was for a strategic housing development, was dealt with under fast-track legislation which allows builders to bypass the normal local authority planning process and go straight to An Bord Pleanala for permission.

The only way to challenge it was by way of judicial review in the High Court, which began on Tuesday.

In a preliminary ruling yesterday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said the developer's failure to include in its online planning documents information about the potential impact of the development on various species of bat, which are protected under EU law, was fatal to the validity of the permission.

Error

An earlier version of the document was posted online in error. This appeared to have happened owing to inadvertence and none of the parties were aware of it until the action began this week, he said.

Cairn Homes conceded that the regulations requirement had not been fulfilled, but said the permission should not be set aside on that narrow ground.

Rather surprisingly, the judge said, An Bord Pleanala argued that the breach was of a minor nature and did not affect the validity of its decision.

He said the regulations "could not be clearer in their terms" and the failure to post the correct version online represented a breach of those regulations. It "cannot be characterised as trivial, technical or insubstantial", he added.

The effect of it was that it undermined public participation in the planning process and distorted the interpretation of the planning permission itself, he said.

The judge quashed the decision after he was told by Eamon Galligan SC, for Cairn, that a new planning application would be submitted. He awarded costs against the board.

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