An Bord Pleanála has ruled that Dublin Port Company's plan to infill 21 hectares of the bay represents strategic infrastructural development and should be heard under its fast-track process for projects of national importance.
The ruling, which was opposed by the campaign group Dublin Bay Watch, is a major boost for the port company which claims it is rapidly reaching capacity.
Involved in the development is the construction of new quays along the southern and eastern edge of the 21-hectare site in the north bay near Clontarf promenade.
Three new berths for roll-on, roll-off ferries would be provided on the southern quay, while a fourth berth for load-on, load-off ferries would be provided on the eastern quay.
The development also envisages ancillary surface storage and dockland circulation areas.
However, the company told An Bord Pleanála this configuration may change to avoid a potential designation of the northern part of the plan as a special protected area (SPA) for birds, by the Department of the Environment.
Submissions and observations critical of the plan were received from Seán Dublin Bay Rockall Loftus; Dublin Bay Watch; Clontarf residents' Association and Independent TD Finian McGrath.
An Bord Pleanála documentation also notes that the Department of the Environment reported that Ireland had been brought to the European Court of Justice for allegedly not implementing the requirements of the EU birds directive. The papers note that part of the EU case was that the SPA designations had not been put in place in certain locations.
The department indicated it was likely based on the opinion of the advocate general that Ireland would have to extend the earlier SPA designations in Dublin "to include the proposed development area".
In response the company told the board it believed the SPA affected only 4.5 hectares of the proposed 21-hectare infill and that the development could be reconfigured at planning permission stage.
Clontarf councillor Gerry Breen (FG), who is also chairman of Dublin Bay Watch, said a "huge question" remained about whether the infill was needed at all. "There is about 10 million tonnes of cargo destined for the new port at Bremore near Drogheda in its first year of operation, and it is probably about five years before the Dublin Bay extension would be up and running. By that time it would not be needed."
The Irish Times