Gormley overturned land designation without consultation, court told

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley failed to engage in any adequate consultation with local landowners before issuing directions overturning the designation of lands in Carrickmines as a “district centre”, the Commercial Court has been told.

A district centre allows for a development with considerably more retail floorspace than a “neighbourhood centre,” the designation preferred by the minister. A neighbourhood centre involves a development of small groups of small shops of a local nature serving a small, localised population.

Tristor Ltd, which wants to develop the Park Village as a district centre, has claimed the minister’s directions, unless quashed, will cost 1,500 jobs.

In opposing Tristor’s challenge, the minister has said he issued the directions because the draft development plan for the area did not comply with the Planning and Development Act 2000 in that it failed to set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.

Because of that “significant failure” to comply with the act, including failure to comply with the Greater Dublin Area Retail Strategy, the minister said he issued directions requiring Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council to amend the plan. He also denied claims by Tristor he misinterpreted his role.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke has begun hearing a “telescoped” action in which he is asked to determine Tristor’s application for leave to bring a judicial review challenge to the directions in tandem with the substantive hearing of the case.

Tristor, with offices at the Herbert Building, The Park, Carrickmines, has brought the proceedings against the minister, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The case was outlined by Eamon Galligan, counsel for Tristor. Mr Galligan said his side accepted the council had no choice but to act in accordance with the minister’s directions and the hearing was essentially aimed at overturning the directions.

The minister, he said, was contending the designation of the lands as a district centre did not set out a “proper strategy” for sustainable development of the area but there was no requirement in Section 31 of the Planning Act 2000 for a “proper strategy”. Instead, the act required an “overall strategy”.

The minister’s direction was issued to the council on March 9, 2010, and required it to delete the council’s decision designating and zoning the Park lands at Carrickmines as a district centre in the council’s draft development plan 2010-2016.

The minister instructed the council to delete the “village centre” designation and to revert to the previous zoning objective of the Dun Laoghaire Co Development Plan 2004-2010. That provided for a “neighbourhood centre” development.

Tristor owns 3.14 hectares of lands at The Park Village and those lands make up the majority of the designated lands. It secured planning permission in April 2008 from the council for a mixed-use development.

Tristor claims its planning permission cannot be implemented until the dispute over the minister’s decision is resolved.

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