Further Statement re St. Anne's Development Court Ruling

09 May 2021

Statement from I Love St. Anne's Action Group and Clontarf Residents' Association

As you know, the High Court
yesterday agreed to quash An Bord Pleanála’s planning grant at St. Paul’s. It did so on a range of grounds which are outlined below – key among them, Z15 zoning and land use.

The photo with this post shows zoning for our small part of Dublin city, with St. Anne’s/St. Paul’s in bottom right hand corner. Everything in dark blue in the map is zoned Z15, which is a land zoning intended to protect and provide for institutional and community uses. These are our green spaces, our pitches and our school grounds – many in private ownership (like St. Paul’s) but with a long history of community use (like St. Paul’s).


In relation to the arguments that the Board misinterpreted the zoning of the land, the Court held that the Board made 3 fundamental errors in its approach in relation to the Z15 zoning and the requirement to protect the existing institutional and community use.

First, it had regard to an irrelevant consideration, namely change of ownership. Change of ownership does not alter the use of land.

Second, it failed to have regard to a relevant consideration, namely that the Development Plan aimed to secure the future use of the land, and was not merely continuing an existing use. The objective was to secure the use indicated on the plan map, as playing pitches, into the future.

Third, it misinterpreted the term “use”. That term has the meaning it has in the Planning Acts. A “use” does not cease just because the lands are sold, or because the new owner closes them down. 

The Court held that the Planning Acts should not be interpreted strictly, in order to favour landowners. There is no right to develop, and no right to a particular zoning. “We are all, at best, leaseholders on Planet Earth,” it said, and we hold property “with some view to the benefit of society as a whole and of future generations.” Development plans are part of the People’s benefit under the social contract, and are for the welfare of all. They are not penal clauses.

The Court also held that the Board misinterpreted Strategic Planning Policy Requirement 3 of the Building Height Guidelines in relation to the risk of bird strikes. This was something that should have been considered. The inspector considered it based on evidence that was not formally before her, and concluded that bird strikes were not a problem. The Board disregarded the evidence but agreed that bird strikes were not a problem. It failed to explain why. The Court said it needed to explain.

The Court accepted that the Board needed to explain why it considered the development to be of strategic importance. The mere fact that the 2016 Planning Act defines development of more than 100 houses as being strategic housing does not mean that a particular development is necessarily strategic for the purposes of obtaining permission in material contravention of the development plan under Section 9(6) of the Act.

The Board also erred in applying Strategic Planning Policy Requirement 1 of the Building Height Guidelines to an individual planning application. That requirement relates only to adoption of the Development Plan.

If you are interested in the full detail of the ruling, which includes an excellent summary of the story so far, you can read it here https://www.courts.ie/viewer/pdf/56efd110-b1fa-4e90-bbcf-34aec6e41e93/2021_IEHC_303.pdf/pdf#view=fitH
(Key elements are at points 26 – 30)