DUBLIN Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) acted outside its powers and breached fair procedures when it decided a €200m project on the city's north quays did not need planning permission, the High Court ruled yesterday.
The court granted an order quashing an exemption certificate in a case brought by developer Sean Dunne against the DDDA, even though work on the development is under way.
Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan yesterday found that a confidential agreement reached between the DDDA and the project developer, North Quay Investments Ltd (NQI), before the exemption certificate was issued in July 2007 also gave rise to a "reasonable apprehension of bias'' by the authority.
Under that agreement, on May 31, 2007, NQI agreed to provide land to the DDDA for use as public space if the exemption certificate was granted.
Judge Geoghegan said the agreement provided that the DDDA, or its executives, would recommend to its board that the certificate should be granted. The agreement also noted that the planning scheme for the North Lotts site did not allow the development which was proposed by NQI.
There was "a direct relationship" between the decision to grant the certificate under Section 25 of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997 and the obtaining by DDDA of the public open space lands, the judge added.
The fact the DDDA had stated it has a "well-known practice" of entering into agreements with developers did not alter her conclusion on bias. While pre-certificate discussions could be entered into, no commitment could be given that a certificate would issue, she said.
"What is permissible falls short of what was done in this instance,'' the judge added.
The case was taken by developer Sean Dunne and his North Wall Property Holding Company (NWPHC) against the authority's decision because the NQI project adjoins development lands owned by him.
In her decision, which will with far-reaching implications for the DDDA, the judge ruled the that authority was only empowered to grant certificates for exempted development if the proposal was consistent with the planning scheme.
The judge ruled the proposed NQI development was not consistent because of the proposed commercial use of the buildings and their height.
She also found the DDDA breached fair procedures in not permitting Mr Dunneto make submissions on the proposals.
Yesterday the DDDA said it would not be commenting on the ruling.
Tim Healy and Paul Melia