A challenge by Cork County Council over a ministerial direction to annul a change to its development plan providing for a €100 million retail outlet centre in the east of the county will be heard in the autumn.
The challenge, to be heard in the High Court’s strategic infrastructure development list, relates to a variation of the current plan made by councillors last year and supported by council chief executive Tim Lucey.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), a newly established office to independently assess councils’ forward planning and zoning decisions, later recommended to the Minister for Urban Development that the decision should be reversed.
The regulator, Niall Cussen, said the decision was premature and should not have been made prior to the preparation of an updated joint retail strategy for the entire Cork metropolitan area, as required by ministerial guidelines on retail planning.
In its proceedings against the Minister, to which the OPR is a notice party, the council claims its proposal takes account of the vitality/viability criteria for city and town centres in those guidelines.
It says the disputed variation should not have an adverse impact on those other centres and can be of significant benefit, and an important contributor, to the life and vitality of the metropolitan economy.
The Minister’s direction to reverse the decision was amde without jurisdiction in circumstances where the development plan sets out an overall strategy for the functional area of the council, it claims. The decision is fundamentally flawed, irrational, unlawful and of no legal effect, it argues.
The Minister denies the claims.
When the case was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys on Monday, the judge granted an application by James Connolly SC, for the council, to fix a hearing date of October 19th.