Residents challenge plan to build temporary halting site near Finglas
Co Dublin residents have brought a High Court challenge to the proposed development of a £1.2 million temporary halting site at Meakstown near Finglas.
Fingal County Council has said that the site is required urgently, as 12 Traveller families are living in unsatisfactory conditions at another site at Cruiserath, Mulhuddart.
An order restraining work on the Meakstown development was granted by the court last May and remains in effect, pending the outcome of judicial review proceedings by residents.
While the hearing of those proceedings opened yesterday before Mr Justice McKechnie, Mr Hugh Mohan SC, for the residents, indicated that an issue regarding the constitutionality of emergency powers relied on by the council to sanction the development might have to be dealt with at a later stage.
Mr Derek Byrne, spokesman for the residents of Meakstown Cottages, claims that the plan to build the 12-bay halting site is a material contravention of the Fingal County Development Plan and that the council failed to hold proper consultations with residents before deciding to proceed. The residents claim that the development was presented to them last May as a fait accompli.
In their proceedings, the residents say that the council abused its discretion in exercising emergency procedures to proceed with the development. They also argue that the council failed to properly or adequately apply the provisions of the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998.
They claim that the council invoked an emergency procedure where no emergency existed and argue that the primary purpose for doing so was to bypass the statutory procedures and deprive residents of an opportunity to be heard.
The council says that it was entitled to exercise its discretion because it was presented with an emergency situation in relation to the position of Traveller families at the Cruiserath site. It says that the Meakstown site is urgent and necessary to provide a reasonable standard of accommodation for the families.
The council denied that the exercise of emergency procedures was an abuse of its discretion. It noted that it had been ordered to remove families from the Cruiserath site in other court proceedings. Those proceedings have been adjourned until October to facilitate the council in relocating the families from Cruiserath to the proposed Meakstown site.
Mr Pat Butler, for the council, said that the matter was urgent primarily because the families at Cruiserath needed to be moved to more satisfactory accommodation. It was also under pressure from contractors.
The hearing continues today.