Challenge to Fitzwilliam Street homeless hostel fails in court

Dublin City Council’s approval of proposed hostel at Longfield’s Hotel did not breach planning law

In her judgment Ms Justice Baker noted the city development plan obliged the council to work with other agencies to alleviate homelessness

In her judgment Ms Justice Baker noted the city development plan obliged the council to work with other agencies to alleviate homelessness

 

A man living in a protected Georgian house on Upper Fitzwilliam Street on Dublin’s south side has lost his High Court challenge to a planned emergency homeless hostel on the street.

Dublin City Council’s approval of the proposed Dublin Simon hostel at Longfield’s Hotel at nos 9-10 Upper Fitzwilliam Street did not breach planning law or materially contravene the Dublin city development plan, as alleged by Kenny Byrnes, Ms Justice Marie Baker has ruled.

Nothing in the plan required homeless accommodation to be confined to certain parts of the city or not to be put in certain identified residential areas, she said. There was no evidence the proposed hostel works would have a material impact on protected structures or the character of the area.

The council owns Longfield’s Hotel, formerly used as a boutique hotel, and in February 2015, it approved works for use of the premises as a 30-bed emergency hostel.

Mr Byrnes, who lives at no 2, took proceedings in April 2015 against the council aimed at quashing its approval. The case has delayed Dublin Simon’s plan to move its emergency facility at Harcourt Street to Longfield’s Hotel.

There were also a large number of local objectors to the hostel, including several lawyers, the court heard.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Baker noted the city development plan obliged the council to work with other agencies to alleviate homelessness, and the stated objective of providing a solution to homelessness “is a planning consideration and a planning policy”.

Six months

She said the hostel’s intention was to provide temporary accommodation for a maximum of six months to homeless persons, along with general health services provided free by the SafetyNet grouping.

Claims by Mr Byrnes that the hostel would be a needle-exchange facility, drop-in-centre and methadone treatment centre were denied by the council.

Ms Justice Baker dismissed arguments the hostel was not a local authority development but rather one by Dublin Simon, and therefore the procedure used under section 179 of the 2001 Planning Act was incorrect and permission must fall.

She said section 179 included applications for permission for development in buildings owned by a local authority in which services would be provided by a third party on behalf of the authority.

She also rejected claims that public notices posted by the council concerning the planned hostel were inadequate and defective. While the council’s chief executive’s report to councillors on the hostel was defective in certain aspects, it was adequate for the statutory purpose for which it was prepared, and errors complained of were minor and trivial.

Development plan

Dismissing the claims that the hostel proposal amounted to a material contravention of the Dublin city development plan 2011-2017, she said a development plan must be considered as a whole. The plan identified concerns about provision of services to alleviate homelessness in the city and supported the Housing Action Plan for Dublin obliging the council and other statutory agencies to provide appropriate accommodation and work together to improve the range and quality of services for homeless people.

She said Mr Byrnes also incorrectly argued the hostel was not a “public” health centre because it would benefit only a small cohort of people. Those who may avail of the hostel were any members of the public who found themselves homeless. Some 4,000 people in the Dublin region availed of homeless services in the first quarter of last year, she noted.

To say a health or welfare use was only for the public in general only if all members of the public generally were likely to use the service was “too narrow” an understanding of the type of community need sought to be met by the hostel.