Businessman claims developer offered €50,000 if he dropped planning appeal

Two Galway residents allege they were subjected to ‘campaign of relentless pressure’ to withdraw planning appeals

The judge granted an order pausing development works at the site. Photograph: iStock

A businessman claims a developer offered him €50,000 for “help”, which he believes was an offer of cash if he dropped his planning appeal against permission for 22 homes in Co Galway.

Anthony Cahill alleges in High Court proceedings that a representative of K King Construction Claregalway called to his home in September 2022 offering a “special proposal”, which involved seeking his help in fulfilling obligations during the development in exchange for €50,000.

He claims Walter King then rubbed his fingers together, which Mr Cahill perceived as an offer of a cash payment to withdraw his appeal lodged with An Bord Pleanála. Mr Cahill says he rejected the proposal and closed the door.

The alleged offer was part of a “campaign of relentless pressure” from the developer, including inducement, intimidation and threats to withdraw the appeal, Mr Cahill alleges in a sworn statement to the High Court.

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Mr Cahill and solicitor Margaret Tansey, who have separate addresses in Rockbarton North, Salthill, Co Galway, have issued judicial review proceedings aimed at overturning An Bord Pleanála’s permission for the 22 homes at Rockbarton Court, Salthill. The board upheld Galway City Council’s approval after an unsuccessful appeal by Mr Cahill, Ms Tansey and several others.

Their case came before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys ex parte, meaning only their side was represented in court. The developer, which is a notice party in the case, and An Bord Pleanála, which is listed to defend its grant of planning permission, have not had an opportunity to rebut the claims in court. The case is also against the Attorney General.

The judge permitted the pair to pursue their claims in the Planning and Environment Court and granted an order pausing development works at the site.

In their judicial review, Mr Cahill and Ms Tansey claim An Bord Pleanála did not comply with fair procedures in determining the planning appeal without seeking further submissions. Further, they allege breaches of EU environmental directives and say the board made legal errors in concluding the proposed development would not have a significant impact on the environment.

The pair have brought separate proceedings, under section 160 of the Planning and Development Act, alleging unauthorised works commenced on the site before the board’s grant of planning permission with several conditions in November.

Their senior counsel, Stephen Dodd, instructed by FP Logue solicitors, said some unauthorised works and tree removal began as early as July.

Mr Dodd said an environmental screening known as an “appropriate assessment” should have been carried out as there is “extreme groundwater vulnerability” in the area.

Mr Justice Humphreys adjourned this case to next week and scheduled for the judicial review to return in two weeks.

In his affidavit submitted for the judicial review, Mr Cahill alleges significant tree and soil removal has occurred on site using heavy machinery.

After correspondence from his solicitor, he said the developer’s solicitor denied unauthorised development had occurred, saying some scrub and fencing was cleared to remove waste dumped on the site by contractors engaged by Ms Tansey.

The developer further stated that Ms Tansey had partially removed two trees for a different planning permission, he said. She denies these allegations, saying Mr King called to her house in May 2021 and agreed to allow her builder to dispose of some pathway rubble at the development site.

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Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

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