Dublin Cycling Campaign takes High Court action against An Bord Pleanála

Dublin Cycling Campaign has been given permission by the High Court to bring a case against the national planning body An Bord Pleanála.

The case is about An Bord Pleanála granting permission for the ‘Connolly Quarter’ development to the rear of Connolly Station.

The developer argued that they don’t need planning permission to build a new car park as part of the Connolly Quarter development. The car park is unrelated to the housing and includes no cycle parking. Dublin Cycling Campaign and Dublin City Council strongly questioned the developer’s approach. An Bord Pleanála granted permission regardless.

It is our case that An Bord Pleanála failed to adequately assess the planning application. The new car park requires planning permission under Irish law. As a result, we are petitioning the High Court to overturn the decision of An Bord Pleanála.

We regret that we are delaying the delivering of build-to-rent apartments during the housing crisis. This was a major consideration before we decided to take the case. Unfortunately this unrelated car park was included in the same planning application.

This case has significant implications. An Bord Pleanála and the developer are subverting the Dublin City Development Plan. Proper planning is key to making Dublin a more liveable city and achieving the campaign’s goals.

Let us explain the proposed development, our legal case, and why we think this case is important.

Proposed development

The planning application is to build 741 build-to-rent apartments on the existing car park to the rear of Connolly station. The land is owned by state transport body CIÉ. The planning application was made by private developer Ballymore with CIÉ’s permission.

The planning application is a Strategic Housing Development. This means the developer can skip Dublin City Council and apply directly to An Bord Pleanála.

At first glance this development aligns with Dublin Cycling Campaign’s vision for Dublin. The development replaces 390 city centre car parking spaces with high density housing beside a strategic public transport hub. The planning application includes a limited number of residential car parking spaces and over 1,400 covered cycle parking spots for residents.

The Dublin Cycling Campaign’s main interest in this development was whether CIÉ was including public cycle parking for the train station in this development. The train and bike combo is an ideal pair to replace many car trips. It needs good cycle parking to work.

The development of this state land does not include any new cycle parking for the train station. If public cycle parking isn’t provided as part of this development we’d love to know where CIÉ and the National Transport Authority (NTA) plan to provide it.

Hidden within the development plans is a new 135-space public car park at level three, above the railway tracks. The development will include new public car parking but no new public cycle parking.

This car park is not included in the planning application. The developer argues that it does not require planning permission.

Dublin Cycling Campaign disagreed with this approach and made a submission to An Bord Pleanála.

Dublin City Council echoed our concerns to An Bord Plenála. It said “The existing use of the site to accommodate CIÉ parking is noted however such parking is not currently provided at 3rd floor overhanging the CIÉ railway sidings. The provision of car parking at this location constitutes development in the opinion of the planning authority”

Dublin City Council continued by saying they “would have serious concerns in relation to the undesirable precedent” that granting permission would set. Dublin City Council recommended that An Bord Pleanála not grant permission for this car park.

The concerns of Dublin Cycling Campaign and Dublin City Council were rejected by An Bord Pleanála, which granted permission regardless.

Legal case

We are seeking a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision. A judicial review doesn’t consider the merits of the development, like the lack of public cycle parking. It only considers whether An Bord Pleanála followed the law when assessing the case. It is our contention that An Bord Pleanála did not.

Simplifying our case:

  • This new car park does require planning permission. It must be included in the planning assessment
  • The application was invalid because this car park was not included on the site notice. This prevented the public from knowing that these car parking spaces would be included in the redevelopment.
  • The planning application was not eligible for the Strategic Housing Development process because the total area of the site being used for non-housing purposes was greater than 15% when you include this car parking area.

An Bord Pleanála should have declared the application invalid. Then the developer could resubmit the full and complete application to Dublin City Council.

Why is this case important?

This case sets a dangerous precedent about what kind of development requires planning permission. This is extremely negative for the vision of the Dublin Cycling Campaign, which is to build a vibrant, liveable Dublin where people of all ages and abilities can choose to cycle safely.

A key objective of the Dublin City Development Plan, approved by the elected city councillors, is to reduce commuter car parking in the city centre. It is a proven approach for reducing the congestion in the city centre. Reducing traffic is key to reducing air pollution, noise pollution, and road danger in Dublin. Reducing traffic will make Dublin a more enjoyable and vibrant city to live and cycle in.

If developers can re-develop sites without planning permission we will never significantly reduce or eliminate commuter car parking in the city centre.

It is Dublin City Council policy that all new car parks must include significant levels of cycle parking. As this car park was excluded from the planning application we missed out on the opportunity to provide high-quality cycle parking at Connolly Station.

We regret that we are delaying the delivering of 741 build-to-rent apartments during the housing crisis. This was a major consideration before we decided to take the case. It is unfortunate that the developer has underhandedly included a new public car park in a housing application.

Given Dublin City Council’s strong objections to the assessment of the car parking in this case it is also disappointing that Dublin City Council is not taking this case.

If An Bord Pleanála had properly assessed this planning application our small charity would not have been forced to bring this case.

We hope the High Court quashes the decision so that the developer can re-apply as soon as possible with any necessary adjustments.

FP Logue Soliticors, James Devlin SC, and John Kenny BL are representing Dublin Cycling Campaign in this matter.

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Friday, 10 April 2020 (All day)

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