Judge urges parties to work together to shorten hearing time

Comments refer to challenges to decisions made by An Bord Pleanála

Parties involved in legal challenges concerning large-sized strategic developments have been urged, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, to try to shorten the time it takes for the High Court to hear such disputes.

The comments were made on Thursday by Mr Justice Denis McDonald, the presiding judge over the fast-track Strategic Infrastructure Development list.

The list concerns challenges against decisions made by An Bord Pleanála concerning large infrastructure developments that were made directly by the developer to the board, bypassing the local authority.

The judge, when making pre-trial directions in regard to several high-profile cases, said, given the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he did not know when he would be able to fix hearing dates for these actions.


The cases include a challenge brought by John Conway and the Louth Environmental Group NGO against An Bord Pleanála's decision last February to allow Crekav Trading GP Ltd to develop 657 apartments near St Paul's College, Sybil Hill Road in Raheny, Dublin.

Other cases include one taken by a residents' association and the Protect Meath East NGO against the board's decision to allow Trailford Ltd develop 661 dwelling units, a neighbourhood centre and creche at Rathmullen, Drogheda. The applicants in that action claim the decision is flawed and should be set aside on grounds including that the board failed to consider its potential impact on the site of the Battle of the Boyne.

Also on Thursday, the judge said some cases, including another separate action expected to last for several days in May, were highly unlikely to get on. The current situation means the court is unsure if cases in the list can be heard as late as July or in October after the courts’ summer recess.

He said remote hearings of one-day High Court cases via video link would be trialled on a pilot basis next week.

It remained to be seen how these remote hearings would work in cases expected to last for several days, he added.

Lengthy hearings

In regard to lengthy hearings, he was urging the parties involved to try to work together in an attempt to reduce the time such actions would run.

He suggested parties put as much down in writing as possible or take any other steps they see fit to reduce hearing time.

After making directions regard the exchange of documents, the judge adjourned the cases in the list to dates in late May for mention only.