Supreme Court to consider nature of local development plans and how these can be challenged

Several well-known firms have pending actions over such plans

The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the nature of local development plans and how these can be legally challenged. The issues will be considered in two appeals brought by developers whose legal challenges to zoning elements of the Meath County Development Plan for 2021 to 2027 were dismissed by the High Court.

Every local authority must create a development plan, which consists of a statement and maps describing its aims and objectives for particular areas.

Killegland Estates Ltd bought land at Ashbourne for €1 million before its Meath county councillors decided to remove its housing zoning and designate it for community infrastructure to be used as an access site to a park. The High Court’s Mr Justice Richard Humphreys ruled there was no basis for Killgland to contend the council’s rezoning decision exceeded the bounds of rationality.

The same judge also dismissed McGarrell Reilly Homes Ltd and Alcove Ireland Eight Ltd’s case protesting zoning changes to four parcels of development land in Kilcock and Stamullen.


Mr Justice Humphreys said, among other things, there was no failure on the part of the council to comply with its obligations under the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive. Even if, counterfactually, the council’s decision was flawed, there would be a particular problem related to granting an order to quash the zoning changes, he said.

That was because McGarrell/Alcove had only sought to quash the decision in relation to their own lands and not the core strategy that ensures compliance with national and regional policy, the judge said.

In applying to the Supreme Court the developers said they want to argue against this core strategy finding, among other things.

In a determination this week a three-judge Supreme Court panel said the applications raised points of general public importance concerning the nature of a development plan.

The court will examine the grounds upon which a challenge can be brought to part of a plan, and the nature and extent of any obligation to provide reasons for rezoning decisions.

Several well-known development firms have pending actions over development plans, including Pat Crean’s Marlet group, which takes issue with Dublin City Council’s decision to rezone its Raheny lands to “open space” use, prohibiting housing construction.

Three developers are challenging the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Development Plan, including Colbeam Ltd, over a change of zoning of a site in Milltown for which it has permission (which is currently being judicially reviewed) for a 698-bed student scheme. Richard Barrett’s Bartra is objecting to the removal of a residential reference in the zoning for its Bulloch Harbour site.

Housebuilders Cairn and Glenveagh are seeking judicial review of Kildare County Council’s decision to reduce the number of homes that can be built in the county during its new plan’s six-year lifespan from 22,272 to 9,144. The same two developers have brought a similar challenge to Wicklow County Council’s plan.

Meath County Council’s plan faced five High Court challenges, including from Killegland, McGarrell/Alcove and another developer whose case has been adjourned generally.

Mr Justice Humphreys quashed part of the Meath County Development Plan relating to zoning of certain lands in Drogheda for residential development. He also annulled the plan’s intention to develop a road passing through a firm’s lands.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter