Planning permission for proposed Biogas facility in Meath quashed by High Court

File photo of a biogas plant.

The High Court has set aside a decision of An Bord Pleanala to grant planning permission for the construction of an electricity generating biogas facility in Co. Meath.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons today quashed the board's decision of June 9, 2016, to grant permission to Greenfield Ventures Limited to construct two anaerobic slurry digestors, storage tanks, an office building, silage pit and other associated works at Gillstown, Garlow Cross, Navan in Co. Meath.

The Judge said the board, in deciding to grant permission for a facility designed to convert farm slurry and other biodegradable waste in renewable energy and fertiliser, had reached certain conclusions concerning an EU Directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

These conclusions, he said, were unreasonable because no material had been put before the court capable of justifying the board's conclusions in regards to the Directive, known as Seveso III.

Mr Niall Halpin of Johnstown, Navan, Co. Meath, brought the judicial review challenge against the board's decision, on grounds including the board's decision was flawed.

Mr Halpin, represented by Niall Handy Bl, has permission to build a private dwelling house close to the proposed plant and had concerns about the noise and disturbance that will come from the proposed development.

The action was opposed by the board. Greenfield Ventures and Meath County Council were notice parties to the action.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Simons said that he was setting aside the permission due to the board's conclusions in relation to the Seveso III Directive.

One of the concerns, he said, was that the board had found that there was no likelihood of the 10 tonne limit for the storage of biogas at the proposed site being exceeded.

This conclusion, the judge said, was based on technical information provided by the developer.

However, when the documentation actually relied upon by the An Bord Pleanala was considered that conclusion could not be supported.

The Judge also said that contrary to a recommendation made to the board a condition of the planning permission did not require the developer to demonstrate that the maximum quantity of biogas present on the site at one time could never exceed 10 tonnes.

The condition attached to the permission was not prescriptive in respect of the suitable operational controls to be implemented to limit the biogas quantities at the proposed facility, the judge added.

The Judge rejected the plaintiff's arguments that the proposed development was incorrectly characterised by the board, and found an Environmental Impact Assessment screening determination carried out on the proposed plant was lawful.

The Judge also rejected Mr Halpin's claim that the board had erred in its understanding of the separation of distances between the proposed development and Mr Halpin's proposed dwelling house.

The judge, who adjourned the matter to a date in early June to allow the sides consider the decision, said he would hear the sides on whether the matter should be remitted back to the board for further consideration or if a fresh application for planning should be made.

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