Court of Appeal gives firm six weeks to find new site for hundreds of shipping containers

Stateline Transport Ltd had been using Tesco site in Dublin for storage purposes

A freight company has six weeks to find alternative accommodation for hundreds of shipping containers following a ruling from the Court of Appeal (CoA).

Stateline Transport Ltd stores between 1,500 and 2,000 containers, stacked in towers of five or more, on a Tesco Ireland-owned two-acre site adjacent to the M50 at Compass Distribution Park, in Santry in Dublin. The containers are held there until they are ready for reuse in international shipping.

In 2020, Stateline agreed a 10-year lease with Tesco to use the land for its containers but the local council, Fingal County Council, brought enforcement proceedings against Tesco and Stateline saying the use was unauthorised development.

As a result, Tesco itself sued Stateline seeking several orders including an injunction ending the unauthorised development use. Stateline is awaiting the outcome of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála seeking retention of the use.


The Tesco case was settled on the basis that Stateline would move out but with a 12-month stay on the agreement to cease use of the site for container storage. Tesco agreed but said that question was for the High Court to decide.

Stateline, in its arguments to the High Court, said it was still awaiting An Bord Pleanála’s decision. It also said it had sought permission to open up on an alternative site in Fingal which had been refused but said a revised application, lodged on February 8th last, should meet the concerns of the local authority.

Last November, the High Court refused a 12-month stay and instead said Stateline had to be out in six weeks.

Stateline appealed and on Friday the Court of Appeal (CoA) upheld the High Court decision.

Stateline had argued there was a public interest in allowing the continued use of the site for its business which it claimed was an important part of the transport logistics infrastructure in this country.

Due to a shortage of container storage space in Dublin, it contended that the costs and delays that would arise if its customers had to look further afield for suitable storage facilities could present a systemic shock to Ireland’s imports and exports, with catastrophic effects for the regional and wider Irish economy, producers and consumers.

It also claimed such a storage facility needs to be about 25 minutes from the nearest port.

It argued the High Court had not correctly applied the principles applicable to the exercise of its discretion under the relevant planning law.

A three-judge CoA dismissed the appeal.

Ms Justice Nuala Butler, on behalf of the CoA, noted Stateline had delayed for nearly two years after receipt of a council warning letter and nearly 15 months after receipt of the enforcement notice before applying for retention, by which time it had been carrying on an unauthorised development for nearly three years.

She also said the fact that Stateline’s belated application for retention permission was now stalled in the appeals process did not take away from the correctness of the High Court’s conclusion that it had not acted in a bona-fide manner and had engaged in a deliberate breach of planning legislation.

She did not think, from an analysis of the evidence, that the High Court judge had erred in principle in the manner in which he had approached this application.

She was conscious that by seeking a stay and then bringing this appeal, Stateline had already secured a de facto four-month stay.

“As the court understands it, the appellant [Stateline] has made no effort to wind down its commercial operations at the site or to prepare for the eventuality that a stay might not be granted to it.”

She said this left the court in the invidious position of having to grant the same six-week stay as the High Court did last November by which time all containers must be removed.

Therefore, she said, this stay would now expire on April 5th.

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here