THE HIGH Court has reserved judgment in a case taken by a leading Dublin leisure centre against a refusal of retention planning permission for parts of the business, including a bar and nightclub.
Westwood Leisure Centre on Clontarf Road is seeking to overturn a decision by An Bord Pleanála refusing planning permission for the retention of extensive portions of the premises, including the Bar Code nightclub.
The owners of the club, Templeville Developments, may have to close or demolish numerous alterations and extensions to the premises if the court opts to uphold the planners’ decision.
In 2008, the board upheld Dublin City Council’s decision to grant retention permission for elements of the complex that were ancillary to its use as a leisure centre but said other extensions were built without planning approval. It said the elements being retained “shall not be used at any time for the sale or consumption of intoxicating liquor”.
The council first began legal proceedings aimed at closing the bar in 2003, but these were adjourned to allow for the planning application. Templeville then sought and was refused retention permission, and An Bord Pleanála upheld this decision in September 2008. The company sought a judicial review and the hearing was heard over five days late last year.
The council is now reinstating its case in relation to the unauthorised bar but says it can’t go ahead until the High Court appeal is decided.
Phillip Smyth, who controls Templeville Developments and runs two other clubs at Leopardstown and Sandymount, says he has been advised by lawyers not to comment.
The club is home to the country’s first 50m swimming pool, and its owners claim the bar is needed to subsidise other operations.
It says Bar Code occupies just 1 per cent of the overall floor space and claims local residents have been given assurances over the operation of the nightclub.
The council is also seeking rent arrears from the Westwood owners for the use of a carpark which the council owns.
The club has not paid for the use of the land since the mid-1990s, but the council has denied a claim by local Fine Gael councillor Gerry Breen that it has acquired a squatter’s title as a result.
In 2007, the council and Templeville agreed the terms of a lease for the carpark. Rent was agreed at €25,000 a year, abated to €1,000 a year for the first 10 years to offset expenditure by the club in surfacing the carpark.
The council says it has asked Templeville to pay the arrears, but nothing has been received yet. A council spokesman said there was an issue with the right of way at the carpark but this was resolved in the past few months and “all legal avenues” were being used to secure payment.