The Supreme Court has ruled that litigants challenging planning permissions on environmental grounds are entitled to a special protective costs order (PCO) for all of their grounds of challenge. The decision, which overturns a decision of the Court of Appeal, has wide-reaching consequences for judicial review planning actions that cite European law, as it means an applicant who loses their case would not be liable for the successful party's costs. The core issue in the appeal was the correct approach to be taken by the courts in determining pre-trial PCO applications in planning and environmental litigation. The appeal arose from a challenge by Heather Hill Management Company, a firm of local residents to An Bord Pleanála’s permission for a strategic housing development of 197 residential units in Bearna, Co Galway. The High Court overturned the permission and subsequently decided the applicants were entitled to a PCO under section 50B of the Planning Development Act, which concerns the entitlement to public participation in planning decisions, for all the grounds of their challenge, including points that do not relate to environmental issues. The Court of Appeal then found the PCO applied only to the applicants’ environmental grounds.
This matter has been covered by multiple Irish news outlets
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