The Four Courts, Dublin
A Supreme Court decision was issued today in relation to the unauthorised quarry at Ballysax in Kildare.
An Taisce queried the legality of the provision by which a quarry operator, or other party, could seek leave to lodge a substitute consent application via internal communication with An Bord Pleanála. Currently prospective applicants can engage with An Bord Pleanála through this internal process that is not subject to public consultation or the provisions of the UN Aarhus Convention, which have been incorporated into the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
An Taisce, alongside another litigant, Peter Sweetman, raised this issue with regard to the pre-application communication between Sharon Brown and An Bord Pleanála in relation to approving substitute consent for an unauthorised quarry at Ballysax, on the Curragh, Co. Kildare. Following the failure of An Bord Pleanála to have regard to An Taisce’s submission, High Court proceedings were initiated and that judgment appealed to the Supreme Court.
In the judgment handed down this morning, it was unanimously held that: “the failure to make provision for public participation at the leave application stage for substitute consent is inconsistent with the public participation rights conferred by and outlined in the EIA Directives”
According to An Taisce, the effect of this finding is that the Supreme Court has struck down thisprovision of Irish Planning law as contravening the EIA Directive. It also says that this finding has major implications for other applications in the process of seeking leave to apply for substitute consent, including implications for future peat extraction activities on selected individual bog units situated across counties Offaly, Westmeath, Laois, Meath, Kildare and Longford.
"The judgment delivered by the Supreme Court this morning clearly vindicates An Taisce’s public interest watchdog role in environmental protection in Ireland and further advances the prominence and protection of European environmental law," said An Taisce in a statement.
"As a result of this morning’s Supreme Court Judgment, An Taisce will be seeking urgent intervention by the newly appointed Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, to ensure that Irish legislation is brought into line with the requirements of the EIA Directive and the public participation rights of the Aarhus Convention."