Dublin City Council is facing legal action over its decision to “dezone” housing development lands earmarked for almost 600 apartments in north Dublin.
Developer Pat Crean’s Marlet Property Group is expected to initiate judicial review proceedings in a bid to overturn the council’s decision to zone lands beside St Anne’s Park in Raheny for open space in the new city development plan.
The councillors’ vote last Wednesday to remove residential zoning from the contentious site has effectively sterilised the land from future use for housing.
The 16.5-acre site to the east of St Paul’s College at Sybil Hill between Raheny and Clontarf has been the subject of multiple housing applications and court actions since it was bought by Mr Crean in 2015.
The High Court last year overturned the latest permission granted by An Bord Pleanála for a strategic housing development (SHD) of 657 apartments on the site.
In recent months Marlet applied to Dublin City Council under the new large-scale residential development (LSRD) system for 580 apartments and a 100-bed nursing home on the site. Unlike the SHD system, LSRD applications must be first submitted to the local authority, and not directly to An Bord Pleanála.
The city council last month refused permission for the scheme due to concerns about the light-bellied Brent goose, which migrate from Canada for the winter months. The council had received more than 230 objections to Marlet’s plans.
It is understood the company will appeal this decision to An Bord Pleanála before the end of this month and also it intends to apply to the High Court to take judicial review proceedings against the council in relation to the new development plan zoning.
While Mr Crean has not commented publicly on the council’s zoning decision, it is believed his legal team has begun preparations for a judicial review of the zoning decision, which will block Marlet from making any future applications for housing on the Raheny lands.
City council planning officials had previously told councillors they were not legally entitled to de-zone serviced land that is available for housing. It is likely this will form a central element of the case.
It is also understood Marlet expects the planning regulator to issue directions to the council to reverse the zoning decision on the grounds it contravenes the Government’s Housing for All policy.
Marlet can also seek compensation from the council for its decision to change the zoning on lands, reducing their value.
A spokesman for the planning regulator said it would conduct a “final independent assessment of the plan” and may recommend to the Minister that powers of direction be used if it is not consistent with “regional and national policy or other statutory requirements”.
The city council did not respond to requests for comment.
In finalising the plan, which will govern development in the city until 2028, councillors said the site – former playing pitches which had been part of school grounds before their sale to Mr Crean – was in an area “bereft of sports grounds”. They also noted the use of the lands by the geese.
During the court hearing last year that saw Marlet’s previous plans rejected, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys noted that the proposed development at the site has so far clocked up four decisions by An Bord Pleanála and 10 sets of legal proceedings “and counting”.