Planning permission for proposed biogas facility quashed by High Court

Greenfield Ventures had been given go ahead for energy generating biogas plant in Meath

Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The High Court has set aside An Bord Pleanála’s grant of planning permission for the construction of an electricity generating biogas facility in Co Meath.

In a judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons quashed the board’s decision of June 9th, 2016 granting permission to Greenfield Ventures Limited to construct two anaerobic slurry digestors, storage tanks, an office building, silage pit and associated works at Gillstown, Garlow Cross, Navan.

The judge said the board, in deciding to grant permission for a facility designed to convert farm slurry and other biodegradable waste in renewable energy and fertiliser, reached certain conclusions concerning an EU directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

These conclusions were “unreasonable” because no material had been put before the court capable of justifying the board’s conclusions in regard to the directive, known as Seveso III, he said.

Niall Halpin, of Johnstown, Navan, brought the judicial review challenge against the board’s decision.

Mr Halpin, represented by Niall Handy, has permission to build a private dwelling house close to the proposed plant. He had concerns about noise and disturbance from the proposed development.

The action was opposed by the board. Greenfield Ventures and Meath County Council were notice parties.

Biogas storage

In his ruling, Mr Justice Simons said he was setting aside the permission due to the board’s conclusions in relation to the Seveso III directive. One of the concerns was the board’s finding there was no likelihood of the 10-tonne limit for the storage of biogas at the proposed site being exceeded. This conclusion, the judge said, was based on technical information provided by the developer. When the documentation actually relied upon by the board was considered, that conclusion could not be supported, he said.

The judge also said, contrary to a recommendation made to the board, a condition of the planning permission did not require the developer to demonstrate the maximum quantity of biogas present on the site at one time could never exceed 10 tonnes. The condition attached to the permission was not prescriptive in respect of the suitable operational controls to be implemented to limit the biogas quantities at the proposed facility, the judge added.

He rejected other claims that the proposed development was incorrectly characterised by the board, and found an Environmental Impact Assessment screening determination carried out on the proposed plant was lawful. He also rejected Mr Halpin’s claim the board had erred in its understanding of the separation of distances between the proposed development and Mr Halpin’s proposed dwelling house. The judge has adjourned the matter to early June to allow the sides consider the decision.

He said he would hear them then on whether the matter should be remitted to the board for further consideration or if a fresh application for planning should be made.