Kildare meat firm launches challenge to minister's land-rezoning decision

A meat company has brought a High Court challenge over a ministerial decision directing county councillors to reverse a rezoning in a local plan which would affect the location of more than 300 new houses.

McCarthy Meats, of Clane, Co Kildare, claims the Minister for Housing Planning and Local Government was wrong in law to direct Kildare County Councillors to reverse their March 2016 decision to rezone 30 acres the company owns at Bodenstown, Sallins, for housing.

The Minister required them to revert to a provision in the 2009 local area plan in which a different 30 acres, also owned by the meat firm, was zoned for housing.

The Minister argued the location of the housing in the councillors' decision was peripheral and breached the "core strategy" of the local plan.

The directive was issued under Section 31 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 which gives the Minister power to order change if a plan fails to set out an overall strategy for proper planning and sustainable development.

McCarthy Meats says the Minister was wrong in law and in fact in making the decision. It claims the basis on which his decision was made was manipulated and not appropriately calculated. It says the lands are not peripheral and are beside existing housing.

It is also claimed there is strong local support for the councillors' chosen location amid concerns about the need for amenity/open space land in the area.

In advance of the hearing of the case, McCarthy Meats has asked the court for permission to cross-examine four housing officials over affidavits they have sworn for the Minister's side.

The Minister, and Kildare County Council, which is a co-defendant, opposed the application. The Minister wants to be allowed to cross-examine a witness for McCarthy Meats if the company is allowed to cross-examine his witnesses.

Jim O'Callaghan SC, for McCarthy Meats, said there were numerous issues as to the lawfulness of the Minister's directive. A judge hearing the case, which is scheduled for May, would benefit from those issues being clarified from cross-examination of witnesses.

Conor Power SC, for the minister, said the cross-examination should not be permitted because there were no core conflicts of fact in the affidavits sworn by the officials.

The case was adjourned to next week.

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