THE controversial Shannon LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal does not have valid planning permission, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
In an opinion released today, Advocate General Juliane Kokott said the original permission, granted in 2008, should not have been extended without an environmental impact assessment being carried out.
High Court judge Mr Justice Garrett Simons had referred the case to Europe for advice while hearing a challenge by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) against the terminal project.
The opinion throws fresh doubt over the viability of the €500m project, the abandonment of which is a core demand of the Green Party as a precondition for government formation talks.
If the High Court accepts Ms Kokott’s interpretation of the law, the project would have to be referred for a full environmental assessment and a fresh planning application.
FIE had argued that planning permission, which was in place until 2018, should not have been extended to 2023 without environmental assessment as special protection areas in the Shannon Estuary where the terminal was to be built had been extended in the interim.
An Bord Pleneala, which granted permission under the fast-tract provisions for strategic infrastructure, argued that there was no change to the planned development so the case did not have to be reconsidered before extended permission.
Ms Kokott, however, said the Bord’s objections were “unconvincing”, particularly as the original planning permission was also granted without proper environmental assessment.
“Already in 2008 that development consent did not contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions capable of removing all reasonable scientific doubt as to the effects of the proposed works in the area,” she said.
“It is certainly incapable nowadays of ruling out the risk that the area would be adversely affected.”