A High Court judge has quashed permission for 18 social housing apartments in Phibsborough, Dublin, for reasons including the possible destruction of bat habitats on the site.
Mr Justice David Holland overturned An Bord Pleanála’s permission for the development on the 0.27-hectare site, which includes a 19th Century derelict house called Stone Villa, near the Luas stop on the North Circular Road.
He found the board’s decision was wrong in law because it failed to properly assess whether there is any real likelihood of significant impacts on bats which are entitled to strict protection.
Developer Lilacstone Ltd was granted permission in 2020 to redevelop Stone Villa as three apartments and to build another 15 apartments in one block on the site. Permission for a second block, which would have meant a total of 32 apartments, was refused in the permission.
Stone Villa is a protected but derelict structure.
A company called Shadowmill, which described itself as a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the protection of the built and natural environment in Phibsborough, brought the legal challenge.
Shadowmill, in its planning objections, said it did not wish to see the site remain derelict but considered the Lilacstone development would be worse for the area including because it would be overbearing in scale and would have an adverse impact on the amenity and privacy of local residents.
In its legal challenge, it claimed there was a failure to conduct any or adequate environmental impact assessment and the alleged lack of jurisdiction to delete one of the blocks from the permission.
There was also a failure by Liliacstone, it was claimed, to provide any or adequate detail as to boundary treatment or interior conservation proposals for Stone Villa.
There was also a failure to properly consider the loss of significant tree cover and the disturbance to bat habitats, it was claimed.
The board opposed the challenge.
Mr Justice Holland, in his findings, also quashed the decision in relation to the proposed works on Stone Villa as a protected structure. He rejected the complaint in relation to the deletion of one of the blocks.
The judge also said it would be “preferable” in all cases if the board made expressly clear whether and to what extent it agrees or disagrees with its inspector. In this case, the inspector had recommended against granting permission but the board decided not to accept that recommendation.
The board’s failure to provide such basic assistance to the parties and to the court on a question that routinely arises in every file “is distinctly to be regretted”, he said.
It is not impossible, despite a “landslide of case law”, that a pattern of board decisions could emerge that could require revisiting by the courts of the very arguably indulgent inferences that have been drawn by the board, he said.
It is, in all but rare cases, a simple matter for the board to make its position clear, he said.