Friday 16 March 2007

Planning board urged to reopen landfill hearing

A High Court judge has "strongly recommended" that An Bord Pleanála reopens an oral hearing into a proposed landfill development in Co Kildare following the board's acceptance that its decision granting permission for the landfill should be quashed because of the "unusual circumstances" leading to that decision.
The board had conceded that the failure to record its decision of July 24th, 2006, approving conditions attached to the planning permission for the landfill at Usk, Kilcullen, meant that it could not establish its decision was made in accordance with law, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said. He said he would quash the granting of permission on that basis.
While the Usk and District Residents Group, which had challenged the decision, had argued there were other grounds for quashing, he said it was not in anyone's interest that court time should be spent addressing those.
While he could not order the board to reopen its oral hearing, he was strongly recommending it do so and was also suggesting the issue of permission for the development should be determined by board members who were not involved in the original decision.
That suggestion, he stressed, did not mean he accepted the criticisms of the five board members involved in the original decision. There might or might not be substance in the criticism but he did not have to adjudicate on that and his suggestion was to minimise the risk of further judicial review.
On that basis, he granted the board's application for the matter to be returned to it for a fresh determination. He also directed that the board pay the costs of the residents group and of Greenstar Recycling Holdings Ltd, the developer of the proposed landfill.
The residents group had opposed the matter being returned to the board and had urged the court simply to quash the permission.
Mr Justice Kelly said his discretion whether to remit had to be exercised with the overall objective of achieving a just result. In this case, the board had disagreed with its inspector's recommendation to refuse and an imperfection in the way it had dealt with the disagreement had led to the permission being quashed.
If the case was not remitted, Greenstar would have to start all over again, he said. The residents had no complaint about how the board had dealt with the matter until August 2005, after the inspector's first report. In those circumstances, it would be disproportionate to Greenstar's rights not to return the matter to the board.
While the residents group had said it had no faith in the board's impartiality and alleged it dealt with the application in a "peculiar" and "incredible way", he would make no findings on those claims.
The case arose from an An Bord Pleanála decision to grant permission for the landfill development at Usk to process 200,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste annually for 10 years.
Mary Carolan
© 2007 The Irish Times

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