Cork County Council challenges minister’s order over €100m retail centre

Cork County Council challenges minister’s order over €100m retail centre

The challenge, which is to be heard in the court's Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) list, relates to a variation to the current plan made last year by councillors, and supported by chief executive Tim Lucey. Picture Denis Minihane

Cork County Council has brought a High Court challenge to a minister's direction that it annul a change to its development plan which provides for a €100m retail "outlet centre" in the east of the county.

The challenge, which is to be heard in the court's Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) list, relates to a variation to the current plan made last year by councillors, and supported by chief executive Tim Lucey.

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), a newly established office to independently assess councils' forward planning and zoning decisions, recommended to the Minister for Housing and Urban Development the decision should be reversed.

The regulator, Niall Cussen, said the decision was premature and should not have been made prior to the preparation of an updated joint retail strategy for the entire Cork metropolitan area, as required by Ministerial retail planning guidelines.

In its challenge to the Minister, in which the OPR is a notice party, the council says, among other things, their proposal takes account of the vitality/viability criteria for city and town centres in those guidelines.

It says the change should not have an adverse impact on those other centres and can be of significant benefit to and an important contributor to the life and vitality of the metropolitan economy.

It says the Minister's direction to reverse the decision is without jurisdiction in circumstances where the development plan sets out an overall strategy for the functional area of the council. The decision is fundamentally flawed, irrational, unlawful and of no legal effect, it is claimed.

The Minister denies the claims.

The case will be dealt with in the High Court's fast track SID list following an application this week from the council. The Minister had opposed the application to admit it it to the fast track list claiming it was not a commercial matter.

Mr Justice David Barniville was satisfied it was and said it should be admitted and transferred to the SID list.

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