An Bord Pleanála concedes decision over Dublin dockland tower heights not legally valid

The challenge by Dublin City Council concerns a planning scheme in Dublin's docklands which covers all of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) area, Spencer Dock, Point Village and the Grand Canal zone
An Bord Pleanála concedes decision over Dublin dockland tower heights not legally valid

An Bord Pleanála has conceded its decision rejecting Dublin City Council’s proposals concerning height increases for some tower blocks in Dublin’s docklands has to be overturned.

The board has accepted its decision was not legally valid, the High Court heard on Monday, and it will now have to reconsider the matter.

However, the sides are in dispute as to what stage that reconsideration should begin. Mr Justice Richard Humphreys will address the issue and the making of formal orders on November 30th.

The council, represented by Stephen Dodd SC, took the judicial review proceedings against the board over the latter’s March 2021 rejection of the council’s proposed amendments to the North Lotts/Grand Canal zone planning scheme.

The board, represented by Brian Foley SC, considered, inter alia, the proposals allowed for only “minimal” building height increases in certain locations would mean just 225 additional residential units on 2,600 envisaged under the scheme and options for greater housing provision within the area had not been realised.

'Appropriate' locations

In disputing the board’s view, the council said it permitted considerable height increases in particular locations and has good reasons for not favouring additional height increases in other locations. The applicable building height guidelines provide for increased height in “appropriate” locations and its amendments accord with those guidelines, it says.

Given the board’s concession of the case, communicated last week in a letter from its solicitors, the hearing of the full challenge, fixed for hearing on Tuesday, is not proceeding.

In the letter from solicitors Philip Lee, the board said it had not properly addressed the issue of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) screening of the proposed amendments in its September 2019 decision. It proposed that the matter be reconsidered from September 25th 2019, the point in the relevant planning procedure when, it claims, its error was made.

The council, in a letter of reply, disagreed about the time of the error. It says the error was made in March 2021 and the board’s reconsideration should begin then, not in September 2019.

Docklands

The challenge is the third and most significant to date by the council concerning the planning scheme in the docklands. It concerns the entire North Lotts/Grand Canal Zone planning scheme, including a 22 hectare area covering all of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) area, Spencer Dock, Point Village and the Grand Canal zone.

In an affidavit, John O’Hara, City Planner Officer for the council, said the planning scheme provided targets for up to 366,000 sq metres of commercial development and up to 2,600 new residential units.

The pattern of development in the area since 2014 has been entirely consistent with the scheme which is largely built out, he said. The commercial target has been exceeded and about 97 per cent of residential target permissions have been granted.

The scheme provides a coherent urban structure, of which height is an integrated component, he said. The scheme is ordered around five hubs - Spencer Dock, Point Village, Grand Canal Dock, Britain Quay and Bolands Mills - and provides, inter alia, for buildings up to 10 storeys along the quays and landmark buildings of up to 22 storeys in the Dublin context provided for.

As a result of the late 2018 Urban Development and Building Height Guidelines, and particularly the section 3 specific planning policy requirement (SPPR3), the council commenced a review of the planning scheme which resulted in the proposed amendments. Those provide for height increases in several locations, including of two/three storeys for several blocks, for a building up to 25 storeys from an original six/seven storeys and for a number of new local landmark buildings up to 12 storeys residential from six/seven storeys.

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