Court allows Eco Advocacy to challenge permission for restoration of Meath quarry
Posted on 19th January 2023 at 22:06
Eco Advocacy CLG is bringing the case over a 2021 planning permission
The High Court has granted permission to an environmental group to challenge permission for the restoration of a disused quarry for agricultural use.
Eco Advocacy CLG, a non-governmental organisation, is bringing the challenge over a 2021 permission granted by An Bord Pleanála to Keegan Quarries Ltd to carry out the restoration of the quarry in Newcastle, Enfield, Co Meath, part of which is near the Blackwater River.
The group claims an alleged unauthorised development at the quarry, subsequent to a 2014 decision, tainted the 2021 decision and that the Appropriate Assessment (AA) requirements of the Habitats Directive had not been met.
It also makes claims in relation to alleged breaches of specified Irish and EU law public notification obligations, including on matters said to relate to waste handling on the site.
Among its specific claims are that the board erred in agreeing with its inspector that the disturbance of the otters in the Blackwater “would not be excessive’“. It said this did not meet the requirement for AA screening which concerns that of “not likely to have a significant effect”.
It was further claimed the permission required a waste licence and that no indication of that fact was given on the site notice and that no consultation occurred between the board and the Environmental Protection Agency which is the licensing authority for waste licences.
Under the 2021 permission, Keegan Quarries was permitted to use existing stockpiles for site restoration at a quarry and to bring in inert excavation spoil comprising natural materials of clay, silt, sand, gravel or stone for the purposes of restoration.
Eco Advocacy’s application for leave to bring judicial review proceedings over the matter was contested by Keegan, while the board did not participate in the hearing.
Keegan argued Eco Advocacy’s grounds were not legitimately raised as they were not brought up before the board during the appeal process despite Eco Advocacy’s full participation at that point.
It also argued no attempt has been made to explain why those grounds were not raised previously.
Many of the grounds raised by the group impermissibly went to the merits of the board’s decision and not the lawfulness of how the decision was arrived at, it was claimed.
Keegan also said other grounds were simply not arguable as they seek to challenge factual findings where no irrationality is alleged and where those findings were grounded in the material before the board. They were, therefore, unimpeachable in judicial review, it was argued.
In his decision granting leave to bring the challenge, Mr Justice Cian Ferriter was satisfied Eco Advocacy had raised substantial grounds for bringing a judicial review. It had also established sufficient interest in raising those grounds.
In arriving at his decision, the judge said he wanted to make it clear it was fully open to Keegan Quarries, and/or the board, to raise all such defences to the grounds that they believe appropriate including any defence in relation to matters not having been raised before the board itself.
He said he was not granting a stay on the permission but Eco Advocacy could apply for a stay when the case comes back at the end of the month.
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