Court quashes permission for height increases of apartment blocks in Harold's Cross

Court quashes permission for height increases of apartment blocks in Harold's Cross

High Court reporters

The High Court has made an order quashing An Bord Pleanála’s permission for part of a 248-unit housing development in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.

In a judgment, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said the planning board’s inspector did not clearly identify the extent of non-compliance present in the application to extend the height of some apartment blocks at the site of the former St Clare’s convent.

The wider housing development on the site of the former St Clare’s convent n Harold’s Cross has been the subject of eight planning permissions and three High Court judicial reviews. 

The judge noted that various permissions have been granted for portions of the project through normal planning procedures, but this fast-track approval for the height increases was granted under the strategic housing development process.

The proposed extension to four blocks to reach six storeys would have increased the number of housing units at the site from 220 to 248.

The applicant in these proceedings against the planning board, local resident Paul Walsh, raised concerns about privacy, claiming one of the blocks built during a previous development phase overlooks his home. Developer St. Clare’s GP3 Limited, who was a notice party, decided not to appear at the hearing. 

Mr Justice Humphreys noted the board granted permission notwithstanding the development’s 19.6-metre tower height was a material contravention of the local development plan, which sets the maximum height at 16 metres. 

The board is allowed to approve a development that contravenes a local plan in relation to building height, but the board’s inspector erred by not clearly identifying the extent of non-compliance with the height guidelines, the judge said. 

Clear identification of any failure to meet standards is “critical to the evaluation of the acceptability of a project”, he said. Further, the extent to which an application falls short of building design standards, and why, is “critical to whether a substandard design, such as this should be accepted”.

Making clear he was speaking generally, and not about this project specifically, Mr Justice Humphreys added that it was important that enthusiasm for quantity of housing is qualified by integrity as to the quality of housing.

This, he said, is to help reduce the prospect of any “sub-standard, cramped, low-daylight apartments of today becoming the sink estates and tenements of tomorrow”. 

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