Monday, July 25, 2022

High Court reporters

A developer whose permission to build 216 student accommodation units in Cork City is under legal challenge appears to have abandoned the project, the High Court has heard.

A local association brought a judicial review action against An Bord Pleanála’s 2020 approval for the scheme near the main campus of University College Cork.

The Orchard Road and Grove Planning and Environmental Protection Group, representing local residents, opposed the demolition of an existing structure and the construction of student housing, including a five-storey block, at Orchard Road.

However, John Kenny, instructed by FP Logue solicitors, for the residents’ association, said the planning board has indicated that developer Denis O’Brien Developments Cork Ltd appears to have abandoned the project.

He said the board has asked his client to agree to its proceedings being adjourned generally, given the circumstances. The residents’ group is not prepared to agree to that, he said.

Representing An Bord Pleanála, Aoife Carroll said the applicant cannot be forced to accept the board’s suggestion, but it appears it would not be prejudiced by a general adjournment in circumstances where there is a stay on acting on the planning permission. She said the planning permission is valid for five years.

Waste of resources

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said there must be a more pragmatic solution than proceeding with a challenge that would be “a bit of a waste of resources”.

He questioned why the court could not make a “without prejudice” order quashing the board’s permission, if it was the case the approval would not be acted upon before it expired.

Ms Carroll said the board’s decision is legally valid and an order overturning the permission would indicate invalidity. The board took the decision, she said, that a general decision was a “practical solution” to the current situation.

Mr Justice Humphreys adjourned the matter until October, with agreement that the parties would communicate about options for how to proceed.

In its action against the board, the Attorney General, Ireland, and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, the residents’ group claims the planning permission is flawed and breached fair procedures.

It alleges, among other things, that the planning authority failed to carry out a proper assessment of the development’s potential impact on protected natural sites in the area.

It also claims the development would contravene the Cork City Development Plan.

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