Council set to ‘fully defend’ developer’s challenge to house-building ban on site near St Anne’s Park

Pat Crean of Marlet’s constitutional challenge centres on decision to change zoning to ‘open space’ use

Dublin City Council intends to “fully defend” a constitutional challenge taken by property developer Pat Crean’s Marlet group to the validity of the new Dublin City Development Plan, according to confidential documents issued to councillors.

Councillors will on Monday be briefed by senior counsel for Stephen Dodd on the council’s legal strategy following the decision of the High Court to allow Mr Crean to judicially review the development plan, approved by councillors last November.

The case centres on the councillors’ decision to change the zoning on Mr Crean’s lands beside St Anne’s Park in Raheny to “open space” use, prohibiting the construction of housing.

In an affidavit, Mr Crean said the council vote amounted to an “unjust and disproportionate attack” on the company’s constitutionally protected property rights.


The company will suffer “serious financial loss” as a result of the decision, which Mr Crean said was unlawful, irrational, unreasonable and made beyond the powers of the council.

The vote is also contrary to the “common good”, he said, as it went against the advice of the council’s chief executive, who said an alternative mix of zoning struck an appropriate balance between ecological protection and the provision of housing in the midst of a housing crisis.

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 in 2021 overturned the latest permission granted by An Bord Pleanála for a strategic housing development (SHD) of 657 apartments on the site.

In recent months the company applied to the 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 council 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. Mr Crean’s group has lodged an appeal with An Bord Pleanála over this refusal. At the developer’s request, the High Court granted a stay on determination of that appeal until this zoning challenge is resolved.

Formulating and ratifying the development plan is one of the few powers held by city councillors, rather than the council management, and the approval of the councillors will be required for the council to defend the case. It is expected councillors will endorse this strategy on Monday.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times