Sunday 6 September 2009

Economic arguments should not be part of port inquiry, hearing told

ECONOMIC ARGUMENTS at the core of the Dublin Port Company’s plans to infill 52 acres of Dublin Bay may not be considered by a planning inquiry into the project, An Bord Pleanála was told yesterday.

The board’s fast-track strategic infrastructure division is hearing an application by the port company for planning permission for the infill, which it said would increase unitised container traffic through the port by up to 50 per cent. The company said the expansion would be necessary to provide deep-water berths for larger ships, and was central to the economic prosperity of the State.

However, speaking at the opening of the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the application yesterday, barrister Donall O’Laoire said the area in question was in the process of being designated as a special protected area under the EU Birds Directive.

Mr O’Laoire, who represents Dublin Bay Watch and the Clontarf Residents Association, both of which oppose the plans, said the European Court had ruled that in circumstances where areas were candidates for protection, legislation from the birds directive applied. “This directive specifically states that economic and recreational arguments are not admissible,” he told An Bord Pleanála senior planning inspector Brendan Wyse. Mr O’Laoire was supported by barrister Ian Lumly of An Taisce, who said there were two further potential legal challenges to the inquiry.

Firstly, questions arose “over the validity of the entire hearing” because of what he maintained were deficiencies in relation to the environmental impact assessment. Secondly, the port company had refused to divulge information on the carbon emissions of the proposed development, contrary to a European directive.

Mr Wyse said he had taken the comments of both barristers into consideration and time could be allocated in the hearing to listen to full submissions on the topics raised.

The inquiry continues.

Irish Times

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