Judge lifts stay on Minister’s decision reversing €100m ‘outlet’ centre plan

Not in interests of Cork for councils to take ‘isolationist approach’ to question of permitting building of centre

The council claims, among other things, their proposal takes account of the vitality/viability criteria for city and town centres in those guidelines. Photograph: iStock

The council claims, among other things, their proposal takes account of the vitality/viability criteria for city and town centres in those guidelines. Photograph: iStock

 

A High Court judge has said it is not in the interests of Cork city and county for either of its two local authorities to take an “isolationist approach” to the question of permitting the building of a retail outlet centre.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland made the comment when she granted an application to lift a court-imposed stay on a direction of the Minister for Housing and Urban Development that Cork Co Council annul a change to its development plan allowing for a €100 million outlet centre in the east of the county.

Earlier this year, the council brought a High Court challenge to the Minister’s direction and a stay was placed on the direction pending the outcome of the proceedings. The variation to the current plan made was last year by councillors and was supported by chief executive Tim Lucey.

The Minister then asked the court to lift the stay.

The council claims, among other things, their proposal takes account of the vitality/viability criteria for city and town centres in those guidelines.

It says the change should not have an adverse impact on those other centres and can be of significant benefit to and an important contributor to the life and vitality of the metropolitan economy.

It says the Minister’s direction to reverse the decision is without jurisdiction in circumstances where the development plan sets out an overall strategy for the functional area of the council. The decision is fundamentally flawed, irrational, unlawful and of no legal effect, it is claimed.

The Minister denies the claims.

Ms Justice Hyland ruled the stay on the Minister’s direction should be lifted pending the determination of the full proceedings.

She found the orderly implementation of the direction would be undermined by a stay as would a recommendation from the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) to the Minister that the variation to the development plan be reversed.

The judge also said a stay was very likely to prevent the outcome of a co-ordinated process between the county and city councils on such centres whereas lifting the stay may permit the outcome of that process to be reflected in the development plans of one or both local authorities.

A stay would also prevent Cork City Council seeking to adopt a joint approach with the county council on retail outlets where it is otherwise willing to do so.

The judge said she was compelled to conclude that the greatest risk of injustice would occur if she were to continue or grant a stay.

She said: “It is ultimately not in the interests of either local authority to take an isolationist approach.

“The question of a retail outlet undoubtedly raises difficult questions because of its impact on shopping in the city centre on the one hand, and the benefits that it may bring to the county (and possibly the city) on the other hand”.

As it is a difficult issue, energy and commitment will be needed to achieve the optimum joint retail strategy, she said.

“It is to be hoped that both local authorities will comply with both the letter and spirit of the direction while it remains in place, to achieve a solution that will be in the overall interests of Cork”, she said.