Court to overturn permission for 660 dwellings near Battle of the Boyne site

Decision had been made under legislation providing for strategic housing development


The High Court has said it will make orders overturning An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for a development including 661 housing units close to the site of the historic Battle of the Boyne.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald found the board’s decision last January permitting Trailford Ltd to develop 661 dwelling units, a neighbourhood centre and creche at Rathmullen, Drogheda, Co Meath was “wrong in law,” and should be set aside.

The decision was made under legislation providing for a fast-track planning procedure where developers can bypass the local planning authority and apply directly to the board for permission for developments which can be defined as strategic housing development.

The judge found the board erred by not properly taking into account the potential effects of the proposed development on bird species in the Boyne Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) in line with the requirements of the Habitats Directive.

The board also erred by screening out the possibility of significant effects on four other important ecological Natura 2000 sites nearby, including effects from the mobilisation of silt and pollutants from the development site.

The Highland Residents Association, representing residents living close to the site of the proposed development, and Protect East Meath Ltd, a local environmental group, had challenged the decision. Represented by John Kenny BL, instructed by solicitor Fred Logue, they claimed the board’s decision was flawed on several grounds including the board had failed to properly consider the potential effects of the development on four European sites identified as core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species of animals.

They also alleged the board had failed to consider the impact the proposed development would have on the site of the 1690 battle.

The judicial review proceedings were against An Bord Pleanála, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland and the Attorney General. Trailford and Meath County Council were notice parties. In his judgment on Wednesday, Mr Justice McDonald said a proper survey to see if the proposed development site was used as ex-situ, or offsite locations, for rare birds from the Boyne Estuary SAC more than4km away, particularly at high tide, had not been put before the board. This is a requirement under the EU Habitats directive, the judge said.

A key requirement was that any survey in respect of this site should have been done at high tide, when some of the bird species in the SAC move to off-site habitats, he said.

The screening exercise carried out by the board did not comply with the directive or the 2000 Planning and Development Act, he said. The judge also held the board had wrongly taken certain mitigation matters into account when the site was being screened. He rejected arguments the board’s decision was further flawed due to a lack of a proper survey on local bat populations. Final orders will be made on a later date after the sides have considered the judgment.