CORK Institute of Technology will not have to fork out €215,000 in development fees to the planning authority after a High Court ruling that as a voluntary organisation it is exempt from having to pay.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan quashed a decision of An Bord Pleanala which had in 2011 approved Cork Co Council's decision to impose the development fee in relation to a site adjacent to the existing campus.
The Institute had mounted a legal challenge to the board's decision of June 2011 which approved a decision of the council to impose a levy of just over €215,000 for the development of a major site adjacent to the existing campus, which was formerly operated by an electronics company.
The Council had previously granted the Institute planning permission in January 2011 for alterations to a building and a partial change of use from a light industrial use to educational facilities, including an examinations hall, seminar rooms and an elite sports training gymnasium.
Under a condition of the planning permission, the Institute was required to pay the contribution. The Institute had appealed against the condition but this was rejected by An Bord Pleanala in June 2011.
Mr Justice Hogan said the question of whether the Institute is a voluntarty orgamisation lies at the heart of the enitre application.
While it was true that the Institute's works is substantially subvented from public funds and its activities are regulated by statute, the judge said the fact remains that the core of its work is charitable in the classic sense of that term which the law has always recognised.
"Thus, the provision of education - not least in the field of science, technology and innovation - is of the first public importance," Mr Justice Hogan said.
He added: "The work of the Institute opens this world to a new generation of young people and it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that the future of the country is contingent on the education of that new generation."
Mr Justice Hogan ruled that the Institute is a voluntary organisation and although not directly State controlled, subvented or run, he said its contribution to the social and intellectual capital of the State is enormous.
The Judge said in view of his conclusion that the Institute is a voluntary organisation, it follows that it satisfies the entitlement to an exemption from planning contributions as contained in Cork County Council's 2009 scheme.