Quarry firm challenges community group’s legal capacity to bring High Court case

Ballyshannon Action Group asking court to allow it pursue challenge to planning permission granted for quarry

A quarry company is disputing a Co Kildare community group’s legal capacity to bring a High Court action challenging permission the firm received for a new sand and gravel extraction quarry.

Ballyshannon Action Group, comprising 229 local residents, wants High Court permission to bring proceedings seeking to quash An Bord Pleanála’s approval of an extraction operation at a 32-hectare site at Racefield, Ballyshannon, Kilcullen.

Kilsaran Concrete, trading as Kilsaran Build, which is a notice party in the case, objects to the court granting leave, while the planning board has taken a neutral stance.

Paul Gardiner SC, for Kilsaran Concrete, submitted that the community group is an unincorporated body and, thus, is prevented from bringing the judicial review case under Irish law.


An exception is provided in cases invoking the Environmental Impact Assessment directive, which allows proceedings to be brought by unincorporated non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that have been pursuing their environmental objectives for 12 months prior.

It was the quarry company’s case that Ballyshannon Action Group was not formed for this purpose and, thus, does not meet the criteria. The onus was on the association to prove it met the conditions, and its evidence to the court did not satisfactorily explain its purpose or rules, he submitted.

Equine industry

Mr Gardiner said some of the individuals involved in the group had personally lodged objections with An Bord Pleanála against the planning application. This meant they would have had the legal capacity to bring judicial review proceedings as individuals, he said.

The community group, which includes local vets and people involved in the local equine industry, says it has concerns about the proposed development, including in relation to noise, traffic, vibration and the impact on the equine industry.

Four local farmers/landowners say a proposal to provide two 20m-long “passing bays” on the narrow local roads to facilitate passing of HGVs will mean cutting into their lands, for which the developer does not have permission.

Ballyshannon’s counsel, Óisín Collins SC, said the applicant, in this case, can be considered a person for the purpose of the relevant act and meets a separate “sufficient interest” test that allows it to bring the case. If one has participated in the planning process, which his client did, it has “sufficient interest” and has standing to issue the proceedings, he said.

He said the exceptional conditions for environmental NGOs was designed to allow these groups that didn’t participate in the planning process to issue proceedings with environmental grounds.

Clarification sought

Nonetheless, he said, his client has been engaged in environmental protection for more than a year and so meets the exceptional criteria. Many of the grounds of challenge to the permission have environmental protection objectives, he added.

The court heard Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, who heads the High Court’s Planning/Strategic Infrastructural Development list, has sought clarification from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) relating to the standing and capacity criteria for environmental NGOs.

The answers could have a bearing on this dispute, said Mr Collins, but there may be a need to refer more targeted questions to the CJEU to address the issues in this case.

Following the hearing of the matter on Thursday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said he would give his ruling at a later date.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter