Tuesday 17 September 2019

Company linked to developer Johnny Ronan brings High Court challenge to council's interpretation of building height guidelines in Dublin

Developer Johnny Ronan
Developer Johnny Ronan

Aodhan O Faolain & Ray Managh

A company linked to developer Johnny Ronan has brought a High Court challenge over Dublin City Council's legal interpretation of building height guidelines.

The action has been brought by Spencer Place Development Company Ltd, of which Mr Ronan is a director.

Salesforce is relocating its operations to Spencer Place, which is being developed by Johnny Ronan
Salesforce is relocating its operations to Spencer Place, which is being developed by Johnny Ronan

The firm claims the interpretation may have an adverse effect on two applications it has pending before DCC for permission to increase the height of several buildings it is currently constructing.

The construction is taking place on lands it has leased at Spencer Place, Spencer Dock in Dublin which is located in the North Lotts and Grand Canal Strategic Development Zone (SDZ).

One of the developments has been earmarked as an aparthotel and residential development, while the other development will be used by software company Salesforce.

In its judicial review proceedings, the company claims Dublin City Council (DCC) has erroneously adopted a legal interpretation of the building height guidelines in a document entitled "Briefing Note on City Development Plan and Height Guidelines."

The document was prepared by DCC's planners at the end of January and was presented to its elected members in March.

The company claims that the interpretation adopted by DCC means that a Specific Planning Policy Requirement, which in general terms provides for increased building heights, does not apply when determining planning applications for developments in an SDZ.

Developer Johnny Ronan
Developer Johnny Ronan

Earlier this year the company applied to DCC to amend existing planning permissions aimed at allowing it to construct additional stories on the buildings it is building.

The additional height proposed in the planning applications is in excess of the maximum building heights set out in the planning scheme for lands at Spencer Place.

Under the 2014 North Lotts and Grand Canal planning scheme, the maximum building heights are eight storeys for commercial buildings, and 10 storeys for residential.

The company claims that DCC's interpretation has exposed it to serious risks in relation to the delivery of the developments.

There is a limited period of time available for it to provide the additional floor space which are the subjects of the planning permissions, it argues.

It claims that the legal interpretation adopted by DCC means the local authority has fettered its discretion to grant the company the planning permissions it has sought.

DCC has denied this in correspondence to the company and says the applications will be given full and proper consideration.

Represented by Eamon Galligan SC, Suzanne Murray Bl, instructed by Neil OMahony and Aonghus McClafferty of Eversheds Sutherland, the company seeks various declarations from the court.

These include a declaration that DCC's legal interpretation contained in a document entitled "Briefing Note on City Development Plan and Height Guidelines" does not apply to an approved Strategic Development Zone and is incorrect as a matter of law.

It also seeks a declaration that the Specific Planning Policy Requirement has legal effect and DCC must apply it in the performance of its functions including its determination of the two planning applications.

The firm further seeks a declaration that DCC must comply with building height guidelines contained in the Specific Planning Policy Requirement when determining applications for building heights in excess of maximum height standards under the 2014 North Lotts and Grand Canal Planning Scheme.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex parte basis by Mr Justice Michael McGrath.

The judge made the action returnable to a date in May.

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