The decision by Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission for a new injecting centre for chronic heroin addicts is "reprehensible" and a represents “a dereliction of duty”.
That is according to a hard-hitting appeal lodged by Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) against the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for MQI's contentious proposal - the first of its kind in Ireland.
Consultants for MQI, Brock McClure also claim that the City Council refusal for the Medical Supervised Injecting Facility (MSIF) “flies in the face of stated Government policy and efforts of the stakeholders within the health field to reduce drug-related deaths”.
Brock McClure state that the refusal is “unwarranted and does not stand up to scrutiny”.
The centre - consisting of seven injecting rooms - is planned to be housed in the basement of Merchant’s Quay existing Riverbank building at 13/14 Merchants Quay, Dublin 8.
Brock McClure further contends that in the refusal, the City Council “has egregiously disregarded the clear policy direction” contained in the Programme for Government, the National Drugs Strategy and the City Development Plan.
In total, 99 objections were lodged against the plan including a number from hotels and restaurants in the area over concerns that the MSIF would contribute to a decline in tourists and trade.
However, in the appeal, Brock McClure state “Copenhagen, Barcelona, Paris and Sydney have MSIFs within their city centre and there is no documented evidence of the tourist industry suffering unduly as a result”.
Brock McClure argues that given that the planned MSIF “is untested in Ireland, the board should rely on valid international evidence which demonstrates that such facilities can result in a reduction of public drug use and public disorder.”
The consultants that in this regard, the City Council’s assertions “that the proposed would have an injurious impact on amenities are unfounded and should be dismissed by the board”.
A central plank of the City Council refusal was the absence of a ‘robust’ policing plan for the MSIF.
However, leading legal authority on planning in Ireland, Eamon Galligan SC argues that the Council was going beyond its powers in requiring a policing plan.
In a nine-page legal opinion on the Council using the absence of a policing plan as grounds for refusal, Mr Galligan argues that the requirement for a submission of a detailed policing plan “is ultra vires”.
Mr Galligan stated that it is not within MQI’s power to deliver a policing plan - it is a matter outside its control.
Mr Galligan also pointed out that a detailed policing plan is a requirement that is not relevant to planning in that planning authorities have no expertise or competence in adjudicating on policing plans or their adequacy.
Brock McClure also stated that two Garda members attending a meeting concerning the MSIF advised that the request for the policing plan was beyond the remit of a planning application.
In the appeal, Brock McClure stresses that the inner city location for the MSIF was required by the HSE tender.
The MSIF proposal lies in close proximity to a local primary school, St Audoen’s National School.
The board of management at St Audoen’s NS claimed that the MSIF “will only compound an already horrendous and intolerable situation” for the school.
The school claimed that the planned new facility “represents an unjustifiable risk to the pupils and staff who attend the school”.
Dublin City Council will be given an opportunity to respond in writing to the points made by the MSIF appeal.
A decision is due on the appeal in late December.