Residents granted permission to bring challenge over visitor centre at Hell Fire club

An Bord Pleanála had granted permission for €15m facility
Residents granted permission to bring challenge over visitor centre at Hell Fire club

Local residents have secured permission from the High Court to bring proceedings aimed at overturning planning permission for a €15m visitor centre at Dublin’s Hell Fire club.

The action by Hellfire Massy Residents Association (HMRA) concerns An Bord Pleanála’s grant of permission to South Dublin County Council to develop a visitor centre in the Dublin mountains at the Massy’s Wood estate and Montpelier Hill.

The site includes the Hell Fire club, a protected structure and national monument built around 1725.

The project is being developed in co-operation with Coillte and the Dublin Mountains Partnership.

At the High Court today, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, the judge who manages the court’s strategic infrastructure development and commercial planning list, granted the group permission to bring the challenge.

In its judicial review proceedings against the board the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the State, the HMRA wants orders quashing the board’s permission, granted last June, for a visitors' centre, car park, and associated works at Montpelier Hill.

It claims the proposed development will, if built, function as a visitor’s hub for the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and profoundly change the way the population of the greater Dublin region interacts with the upland areas to the south of the city.

They claim it will alter the type, intensity, mix and balance of the visitors that arrive to visit Montpelier Hill, the Natura 2000 sites in close proximity and Massy’s wood across the road.

Environmental consequences

The HMRA says it is not opposed to development on Montpelier Hill but believes the development as proposed will have “profound” and “inadequately assessed” environmental consequences.

The HMRA fears the proposed centre will be used by visitors as a gateway for accessing the mountains trail network and claims this effect has not been assessed.

It claims the board, in granting permission, failed to consider adequately or at all, as required by the Directives, the impacts on natural habitats, bats, red squirrels, otters, and the Marsh Frittilary butterfly.

The case against the State includes claims a section of the Planning and Development Act, which requires further information relating to a planning application by a local authority be published via newspaper notice, does not vindicate observers’ rights to effective public participation in the planning process.

When a planning applicant is not a local authority, further information has to be published via newspaper notice and a revised site notice so a participant in a planning process where the applicant is a local authority is at a “significant disadvantage” when further information is submitted, it is claimed.

The action was adjourned and will be mentioned before the court later this year.

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