A HIGH Court judge has described as very difficult to understand Galway County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a housing estate outside Kinvara town on a blind corner on a main road to Ballyvaughan and the Burren area.
It had been proposed to build 31 houses on a main road with a 100km/h speed limit and the council’s permission also extended a town in an unplanned manner in an important tourist area, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said.
The development would have resulted in the blind movement, in terms of sight lines for traffic, of many vehicle journeys to and from “this suburban-type estate”.
It was difficult to see why the court should be required to authorise a public danger or to quash a well-reasoned decision of An Bord Pleanála which overturned the council’s grant of permission, he said.
Mr Justice Charleton yesterday dismissed developer Brian McMahon’s challenge to the board’s November 2009 refusal of permission. The judge also rejected arguments that the High Court, if it finds defects in the procedures leading to the making of planning decisions, has then no discretion but to quash those decisions.
The board had very strong reasons for its refusal of permission, including its view that the proposed development would imperil traffic safety, subject the water table to potentially life-threatening contamination or further despoil the countryside with suburban development.
Local authority planning departments were not entitled to ignore the central principle of planning law – the proper planning and sustainable development of an area, he said. The “priceless heritage of generations of work within the countryside, as reflected in our landscape and in the separation of town from rural areas, has been an invaluable economic resource since the foundation of the State,” he said.
Tourism was attracted by the very environment the planning code was designed to foster and protect and the obligation to plan for sustainable development must take into account the nation’s need for revenue from this vital industry, the judge added.
In his judicial review proceedings, Mr McMahon had argued the board was required to inquire whether a statutory acknowledgment by the council of a submission to it against the development by two local objectors, Seán Forde and Jane Joyce, who live beside the proposed development site, was valid on its face.
The couple’s submission was made outside the legal time limits, but the council sent them a formal acknowledgment. When the couple later appealed against the grant of permission to An Bord Pleanála, they enclosed that acknowledgment among their documents as they were required to under planning laws.
Mr McMahon had argued the board should have inquired into the validity of the acknowledgment, but Mr Justice Charleton ruled the board did not have authority under the 2000 Act to make any legal analysis of steps conducted in pursuit of a planning application by a local authority.