Court asked to block challenge to extension of Ringsend sewage plant

Supreme Court urged to overturn decision allowing residents’ association to fight ruling


The Supreme Court has been asked to overturn a decision giving a residents group the right to legally challenge a €270 million extension to the Ringsend sewage treatment plant in Dublin.

The court has reserved its judgment to a later date.

The State and Dublin City Council argue the Sandymount and Merrion Residents Association (SAMRA) does not have the necessary legal standing to bring its challenge to An Bord Pleanála decision giving the council the go ahead to extend the plant.

The association is objecting to the extension because of concerns about the environmental impact of the project which will include a 9km tunnel under the sea to discharge treated effluent into Dublin Bay.

An Bord Pleanála granted permission last year for the extension just weeks before the Minister for Arts and Heritage proposed on December 3rd to designate a 40km coastal stretch from Rockabil, Howth, to Dalkey Island as a special area of conservation (SAC).

The residents say the undersea pipe will discharge treated effluent into an area directly within, or adjacent to, the SAC. They also say an Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the development was inadequate.

The case is against An Bord Pleanála, the Minister for Arts and Heritage and the State with the city council a notice party.

The council says a the Ringsend plant is operating above designated capacity while the State has told the EU Commission it intends to fully comply with the Urban Water Treatment Works Directive. Failure to do so means the State will be liable to fines by the EU.

The council also says the plant was built in 2003 to cater for a population of 1.64m in the greater Dublin region but is now trying to cope with average daily influent of 1.8m. The planned extension will provide capacity for 2.1m.

Yesterday, James Connolly SC, for the council, and Brian Kennedy SC, for the State, urged the Supreme Court to overturn a High Court refusal to strike out the residents’ case on grounds they constituted an unincorporated association.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Charleton had ruled that ministerial regulations prohibiting unincorporated associations from seeking to appeal planning decisions did not exist.

The State and the council argued before the five-judge Supreme Court that the residents’ association did not have the legal capacity to seek orders challenging the project.

Denis McDonald SC, for the association, said the Aarhus Convention on access to information and public participation in decision-making was designed to remove procedural hurdles as an essential component in providing access to justice.