High court rejects challenge to ministerial zoning order

High court rejects challenge to ministerial zoning order
The judge said the evidence did not support the convention that the minister relied on erroneous information in making his decision. File Picture.

The high court has rejected a challenge to a direction from the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government reversing a councillors’ rezoning decision in a local plan in Kildare.

McCarthy Meats, of Clane, Co Kildare, had sought the quashing of the minister's August 18, 2016, direction that Kildare County Council reverse a councillors’ March 2016 decision to rezone 30 acres the company owns at Bodenstown, Sallins, for housing.

They also rezoned another 40 acres there for open space amenity and educational purposes.

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 claimed the minister was wrong in law and in fact in making the decision. It said the lands are not peripheral and are beside existing housing.

The minster opposed the meat firm's judicial review proceedings. 

Highcourt calls the characterisation of Minister "wholly unfair" 

Mr Justice Mark Heslin, in a judgment published on Thursday, said an analysis of the evidence, in this case, did not support McCarthy's contention that the minister relied on any error when issuing his direction or that it was vitiated by error.

Having carefully considered the evidence, he was unable to hold that the minister was given erroneous information upon which he relied when issuing the direction as claimed by the meat firm.

The evidence did not support the claim the minister erred in law, he said. The reasons for the direction were clear, cogent and comprehensive.

He said McCarthy Meats, in its arguments, had painted a picture of the minister ignoring views of local Sallins people and of the councillors championing their views, the result being an unlawful direction it was claimed.

This characterisation was wholly unfair on the evidence and ignored the nature of a County Development Plan, which another judge described as containing a “solemn and common public contract”, he said.

The minister's decision in this case was, as was clear from the evidence, made in order to preserve the integrity of the plan in furtherance of the common good, he said.

Regardless of how sincerely held were the views of the elected members, it did not follow that the views of the local Sallins community represents what was in the common good, he said.

The common good is served by an adherence to statutory requirements, he said.

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