High Court dismisses environmental group’s challenge to permission for 320 Co Meath homes

Rejection of the case comes after the Court of Justice of the EU addressed questions of European law referred by the High Court

The original permission for the development in Co Meath was granted three years ago. Photograph: iStock

The High Court has dismissed an environmental group’s challenge to permission granted three years ago for the development of 320 homes in Trim, Co Meath.

The rejection of the case comes after the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) last June addressed questions of European law referred by the High Court in October 2021.

The High Court’s Mr Justice Richard Humphreys had already dismissed all of Eco Advocacy’s domestic grounds of challenge. On Wednesday he rejected the residuary matters.

Noting the developer, Keegan Land Holdings, “wasn’t particularly happy” about the making of a reference to Europe, the judge said this is a “right enjoyed by every court or tribunal in the European Union”.


“Insofar as the developer complains about delay overall, it will have to take most of that up with the EU rather than me,” he said.

Keegan Land Holdings received approval from An Bord Pleanála in October 2020 under the fast-track planning process for strategic housing developments. It proposes to build 136 houses and 184 apartments at Charterschool Land at Manorlands, which is in the vicinity of EU protected areas of the River Boyne and River Blackwater.

Eco Advocacy, an environmental non-governmental organisation based in Enfield, Co Meath, secured leave in January 2021 to seek High Court judicial review of the decision.

At that point, the developer’s counsel, Ross Aylward BL, said his side believed it had “dotted all the Is and crossed all the Ts” in its planning application and wanted the challenge determined as speedily as possible.

Dismissing the case on Wednesday, Mr Justice Humphreys rejected as “procedurally improper” any attempt by Eco Advocacy to introduce new unpleaded points or to “quibble” with matters already determined.

Other outstanding issues could be disposed of as they were either not adequately pleaded or were sufficiently determined by the CJEU.

The judge agreed with the developer that a challenger should not be allowed to win litigation by default by “simply bringing the proceedings or delaying their resolution”.

The 2020 permission granted has a five-year validity, so significant further delay would compromise the prospect of implementation and jeopardise the developer’s entitlement to exemption from development levies, the judge said.

Therefore, he put in place a strict timeline for any potential further steps by the parties, such as an appeal. His dismissal will take effect if no party appeals within seven days.

Among Eco Advocacy’s grounds of challenge to the planning permission was an allegation that none of the matters it or others raised during the planning process were properly considered by An Bord Pleanála. It also made complaints about certain environmental screenings and the board’s decision that the proposed development was not likely to have significant effects on the environment.

In its ruling last June, the CJEU determined, among other points, the extent to which an authority authorising a certain type of project must explain why it was certain, notwithstanding any opinions to the contrary, there was no reasonable scientific doubt as to the possibility that the proposal would significantly affect a protected site.

A planning authority determining whether a specific environmental assessment is required, prior to granting permission, is allowed to consider features of the project that may reduce harmful effects on a protected site, the court also ruled.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times