Developer challenges €470,000 levy payments to councils

Company planning to building healthcare centres for the Health Service Executive

A development company is pursuing a High Court challenge seeking to overturn a decision that it must pay financial contributions totalling some €470,000 to local councils for three primary healthcare centres it is planning to build for the Health Service Executive.

Glencar Healthcare Limited, along with its development partners, argues it should not be required to pay levies to the local councils for developing the centres in the southeast as the HSE, as lessee, is the end-user of each of the facilities.

The centres are in Ennis, Co Clare, and Ballincollig and Fermoy in Co Cork. Each of the local authorities levied fees in relation to the centres, and An Bord Pleanála upheld these decisions upon appeal from the developer, according to documents before the court.

It was held that it must pay €130,500 to Clare County Council, approximately €297,400 to Cork City Council and some €43,500 to Cork County Council prior to the commencement of development, said the applicants.

Glencar, with an address in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W, has already delivered several primary healthcare facilities to the HSE by way of long-term leases. It said the planning board has applied exemptions for similar centres it has developed for the HSE in different areas.

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, local authorities adopted schemes enabling them to require a development contribution as a condition of a grant of planning permission. The primary objective of such fees is to partly fund the provision of local public infrastructure and facilities that will benefit the development.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted leave on Wednesday, allowing the developer to seek various reliefs, including orders quashing An Bord Pleanála's decision to uphold the councils' financial contribution demands. He adjourned the cases until a date in May.

‘Entire exemption’

Niall Handy, for the applicants, said the company believes it should get an “entire exemption” from the development contributions as the HSE is a charitable entity and is the end-user.

Mr Handy said it is the end-user, rather than the developer, to whom the board has traditionally held that contributions, or exemptions, apply, he said.

It is the applicants’ case that the board’s decision to uphold the levies amounts to an “error of law” and is contrary to the findings of a previous court ruling, said Mr Handy.

Counsel said the board did not adequately explain why it reached a different conclusion to its inspector, who he says applied the correct legal test.

Glencar and Valley Healthcare Fund Infrastructure Investment Fund ICAV, with an address on Harcourt Road, Dublin 2, and Pames Development Limited, of Amiens Street, Dublin 1, have taken their case over the Ennis development against the board, with Clare County Council as a notice party.

Glencar and Pames are the applicants in the actions over the Cork centres. These cases are also against the board, while the corresponding local councils are notice parties to the proceedings.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter