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Challenge is the third to date concerning planning scheme in docklands 
Dublin City Council wants the High Court to overturn An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of the council’s proposals for what the board described as “minimal” height increases for some tower blocks on a strategic site in Dublin’s Docklands. 
Last March, the board rejected the proposed amendments to the 2014 North Lotts/Grand Canal Docks Special Development Zone planning scheme for reasons including they allowed for “minimal” height increases, would mean just 225 additional residential units on 2,600 envisaged under the scheme and that options for greater housing provision within the area had not been realised. 
The council disputes the board’s view on its proposed amendments. It says it has permitted considerable height increases in particular locations and has good reasons for not favouring additional height increases in other locations. 
The applicable building height guidelines provide for increased height in “appropriate” locations, its amendments accord with those guidelines and should have been approved by the board, it argues. 
On Wednesday, Stephen Dodd SC, for the council, secured leave from Ms Justice Siobhán Stack to bring judicial review proceedings aimed at quashing the board’s March 2021 decision rejecting the council’s proposed amendments. 
The challenge is the third to date by the council concerning the planning scheme in the docklands and the most significant of the three. The case concerns the entire North Lotts/Grand Canal Zone planning scheme concerning a 22 hectare area covering all of the International Financial Services Centre area, Spencer Dock, Point Village and the Grand Canal zone. 
The grounds of challenge include claims the board misread the building height guidelines and did not properly apply them. Other grounds include that that board had gone back on earlier decisions by it concerning requirements for screening for Appropriate Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment. 
In an affidavit, John O’Hara, City Planner Officer for the Council, said the planning scheme provided targets for up to 366,000 sq metres of commercial development and up to 2,600 new residential units. 
The pattern of development in the area since 2014 has been entirely consistent with the scheme which is currently largely built out, he said. The commercial target has been exceeded and about 97 per cent of residential target permissions have been granted. 
The scheme provides a coherent urban structure, of which height is an integrated component, he said. The scheme is ordered around five hubs — Spencer Dock, Point Village, Grand Canal Dock, Britain Quay and Bolands Mills — and provides, inter alia, for buildings up to 10 storeys along the quays and landmark buildings of up to 22 storeys in the Dublin context provided for. 
As a result of the Urban Development and Building Height Guidelines of late 2018, and particularly the section 3 specific planning policy requirement (SPPR3), the council commenced a review of the planning scheme which resulted in the council proposing the amendments to the scheme to ensure it fully reflected the criteria reflected in the guidelines, he said. 
As part of its review, some 90 submissions received as part of a public consultation process were carefully considered, including submissions seeking an increase in building heights and others stating the scheme is a social contract conveying certainty for residents, he said. 
The council also obtained a report from an independent firm of urban design consultants. 
The proposed amendments provide for height increases in several locations, including increases of 2/3 storeys for several blocks, for a building up to 25 storeys from an original 6/7 storeys and for a number of new local landmark buildings up to 12 storeys residential from 6/7 storeys, he said. 
The case returns to court in July. 
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