Residents seek quashing of permission for Ringsend plant extension
Group claims An Bord Pleanala did not take account of special protection status conferred on Dublin Bay
The High Court has been asked to quash permission for the Ringsend sewage treatment plant extension
A residents’ group has asked the High Court to quash permission for the €270m Ringsend sewage treatment plant extension because, they claim, it did not take account of a new special protection status conferred on Dublin Bay.
An area from Rockabill to Dalkey Island was designated a special area of conservation (SAC) by the government in December 2012, less than a month after An Bord Pleanala granted permission for the Ringsend extension, Niamh Hyland SC, for the Sandymount and Merrion Residents Association (SAMRA), told Mr Justice Peter Charleton today.
The SAC was brought in under a 1992 EU directive aimed at protecting marine habitats and species, and in the case of Dublin Bay, for protection of the harbour porpoise which is most numerous in this area of the Irish coast.
Ms Hyland said the fundamental complaint of the residents was that An Bord Pleanala failed to take into account the SAC. That failure rendered the permission invalid,she argued.
The association wants the judge to quash the decision in its proceedings the board and Minister for Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht, who issued the SAC designation. Dublin City Council, which wants to build the treatment plant extension as soon as possible, is a notice party to the case.
Opening the case yesterday, Ms Hyland said the board had defended its position by saying it did not know about the impending SAC designation before it gave its decision. The defendants contended the SAC was not relevant to the making of the planning decision and the SAC issue could be dealt with under licensing by the Environmental Protection Agency and foreshore licences issued by the Department of Marine, counsel said.
The court also heard the Supreme Court had dismissed an appeal against the judge’s previous refusal to grant a bid by the council and State to have the residents’ action struck out on the basis it was taken by an unincorporated body.
In addition to seeking orders quashing the permission because of failure to take into account the pending SAC, the residents also want a declaration the State should have informed the board of its intention to declare the SAC as this had been on the cards for the previous five years.
The residents argue an Environmental Impact Statement provided for the extension was effectively inadequate due to omission of consideration of the candidate SAC. They also claim it gave insufficient detail about drainage capacity planning requirements for the Greater Dublin Region.
They further claim Ringsend is being asked to shoulder an unfair burden of dealing with the region’s wastewater.
They are also concerned about the environmental impact of the planned works, which include building a 9km underground tunnel under the sea to discharge treated effluent into Dublin Bay.
The State argues it is not normal to publicise SACs too far in advance because such information could be used by affected parties to potentially damage the chosen area through development or other activity.
The council also contends the extension to the Ringsend plant is of critical importance to the economic revival of Dublin and the State. The existing 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 waste intake for 1.8m, the council said The extension will provide capacity for 2.1m.
The hearing continues and is listed to run for six days.