Dublin wastewater plant decision should not be ‘box-ticking exercise’, court hears

Irish Water wants planning application to be reconsidered after inspector compiles report

Pictured in 2013, a sign erected near the site of the proposed wastewater treatment plant in north Dublin objects to its construction. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Pictured in 2013, a sign erected near the site of the proposed wastewater treatment plant in north Dublin objects to its construction. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

The reconsideration of the quashed planning application for a proposed €500 million wastewater treatment plant to meet Dublin’s growing needs should not be a “meaningless box-ticking exercise”, the High Court has been told.

Lawyers for a woman who successfully challenged the permission for the proposed 30 hectare plant at Clonshaugh near Dublin Airport want the court to reject Irish Water’s and An Bord Pleanála’s application seeking to get a “critical” piece of infrastructure back on track following Mr Justice Senan Allen’s decision to quash the permission last November.

Irish Water, which is responsible for developing the project, rejected claims on behalf of Sabrina Joyce Kemper that sending the matter back to the board for reconsideration at the point in time when the board’s inspector compiled her report would be a mere box-ticking exercise.

Mr Justice Allen, in his November decision, said the failure of the board to understand and implement the mandatory consultation process with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which it was first required to go through meant the permission was legally flawed.

The judge adjourned the question of whether the matter could be sent back to the board for reconsideration or simply quashed, meaning the entire planning process would have to begin again.

Following submissions from the parties on Tuesday, he reserved his decision.

Declan McGrath SC, for Irish Water, a notice party, urged the judge to remit the matter to the board for reconsideration at the point in time when the board inspector had drawn up her report.

This would mean there could then be consultation with the EPA and this would comply with the board’s duty to carry out that consultation as required by the court finding, he said.

If not, it would mean further delays in the project and have serious consequences for the development of the greater Dublin area, he said. It took 17 months between when this application was first submitted to get the permission, he said.

Ringsend capacity

The wastewater plant is due to become operational in 2026, but as things stand by 2025 the capital’s main treatment facility at Ringsend will have reached maximum capacity and it will not be possible to expand that plant further, counsel said.

Rory Mulcahy SC, for the board, said the court in its judgment had identified the error by the board in relation to conducting an assessment with the EPA and if the matter was sent back to a point in time of the inspector’s report this would remedy that defect.

Oisin Collins BL, for Ms Joyce Kemper, urged the court not to send the matter back to the board or, if it did, not at the point in time suggested by Irish Water and the board.

To do this would mean engaging in a meaningless, hollow and empty box ticking exercise, counsel said. His client was urging the court to instead allow for a meaningful consultation process as required by EU regulation and law and in accordance with the court’s findings.