High Court reporters
A High Court judge has said he intends to quash part of the Meath County Development Plan relating to the zoning of certain lands in Drogheda for residential development.
Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said this week that he will set out his reasoning for the order in a judgment early in the new year.
The judge’s order comes in an action brought by Protect East Meath, a community group in Julianstown that says it has a strong interest in protecting the local environment.
Alleged excess zoning
The group, represented by Stephen Dodd SC and John Kenny BL, instructed by FP Logue solicitors, brought its action asking the court to quash what it said is excess zoning of lands in the south of Drogheda for residential use.
It alleged the council zoned significantly more land for residential purposes than was required by the National Planning Framework during the five-year period the plan covers. The plan provided for some 8,000 residential units, which Protect East Meath said is between six and eight times the projected requirement over the plan’s lifespan.
This was done, the group alleged, by removing a time deferral that had pegged some of the lands for residential development in a future development phase. By discarding the “residential phase II” designation, the council made the lands available for immediate residential development, said the group.
Contrary to statutory obligation, it was claimed, the plan is not consistent with the National Planning Framework or the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the eastern and midlands region, which adopts a target population of 50,000 for Drogheda by 2031.
The group also claimed the council did not sufficiently analyse the infrastructural capacity of the area.
Meath County Council claimed the group did not properly plead its claim for relief which it said was framed in “remarkably broad terms”. It was worrying to the council that the applicant sought the “nuclear option” of quashing part of the core strategy of its development plan.
In July, Mr Justice Humphreys ruled against Protect East Meath on an aspect of its claim relating to an Environmental Impact Assessment.
He ordered that Louth County Council and some landowners whose sites benefitted from the zoning must be notified about the proceedings, which were the subject of further hearing by the court last week.
One of the landowners, developer Trailford Limited, subsequently submitted that Protect East Meath’s calculations ignored the “pent-up demand” for housing across Drogheda and Ireland.
Protect East Meath’s case was one of five challenging the adoption of the Meath County Development Plan in September 2021. The five cases were heard together in June. Since then, the other four actions have fallen away through settlements or court orders.
In June, Mr Justice Humphreys refused to quash the plan in a case brought by McGarrell Reilly Homes Limited and Alcove Ireland Eight Limited over a change of zoning of lands at Kilcock and Stamullen.
He also refused a request by Killegland Estates Limited to overturn zoning that allowed for less intense development of its Ashbourne site.
Last month, the judge quashed the plan’s intention to develop a road passing through lands owned by Hickwell Ltd and Hickcastle Ltd, which have registered addresses at Bracetown, Business Park, Clonee.
The fifth case, brought by Dolent Properties Ltd, of Bandon, Co Cork, over the rezoning of its land in Dunreagh, Ashbourne, has been adjourned generally with liberty for it to be re-entered.