High Court challenges against An Bord Pleanála decisions double in three years

Board’s spend on legal services up by 38.5% as ‘fast track’ planning leads to more challenges

The number of An Bord Pleanála planning decisions challenged by third parties in the High Court has more than doubled in the last three years.

The board’s spend on legal services increased by 38.5 per cent last year, to €1.5 million as it dealt with a large jump in the number of parties challenging its ‘fast track’ planning permissions in the courts.

Figures published by the appeals board, in a new tender, show that the volume of all decisions subject to High Court judicial review challenges last year rose by 51 per cent from 55 to 83 and more than doubled since 2018 when 41 planning decisions were subject to High Court judicial review.

Strategic Housing Development

The appeals board processing Strategic Housing Development (SHD) fast track planning applications has increased the number of court challenges and the latest An Bord Pleanála SHD decision challenged in the courts is Cairn Homes's 614 residential units plan for former RTÉ lands at Donnybrook.


Planning permission was granted for the scheme in a ‘fast track’ SHD decision last September.

However, legal challenges brought by Chris Comerford, Pat Desmond and John Gleeson, from nearby Ailesbury Road, have stalled the process.

Next month, An Bord Pleanála is expected to consent to a High Court order quashing the planning permission for the €338 million scheme.

In another high profile planning case concerning a non SHD case, An Bord Pleanála last year conceded a judicial review taken by the Bulloch Harbour Preservation Association, supported locally by the likes of broadcaster, Pat Kenny, against a decision by the appeals board giving planning permission to a mixed use development by Bartra Capital for Bulloch Harbour in Dalkey.


The appeals board is now seeking tenders from legal firms to provide legal services over the next two years and the appeals board has stated that the value of the work ranges from €2.8 million to €5.5 million for the term and any possible extensions up to two years.

The upsurge in the legal spend follows the last Government introducing the SHD legislation that allows developers to by-pass local authorities with planning applications of more than 100 units and lodging them direct with the appeals board.

However, along with the increase legal spend, the SHD function at the board has also provided the appeals board with a large injection of income with net SHD fee income more than tripling in 2019 to €3.1 million.

The closing date for tenders is February 22nd.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times