The Supreme Court has agreed to consider two appeals concerning the nature of local development plans and how these can be legally challenged. The issues will be considered in appeals brought by developers whose legal challenges to zoning elements of the Meath County Development Plan for 2021 to 2027 were dismissed by the High Court in July 2022.

In its March determinations in the cases of Killegland Estates Limited and McGarrell Reilly Homes Limited, a three-judge Supreme Court panel said the applications raised points of general public importance. The court will examine:

  • the grounds upon which a challenge can be brought to part of a plan,
  • the nature and extent of any obligation to provide reasons for rezoning decisions, and
  • the nature and extent of the obligation to address submissions made on a draft plan.

    A hearing later this year is expected, with the two appeals being heard together.

    Killegland Estates Limited bought land at Ashbourne, Co Meath for €1 million before Meath County Council, as part of its review of the Meath County Development Plan, decided to remove the housing zoning for those lands, and instead designate them for community infrastructure, to be used as an access site to a park. Mr Justice Richard Humphreys ruled in the High Court that there was no basis for Killegland to argue that the Council’s rezoning decision exceeded the bounds of rationality, and so it was upheld as lawful. Mr Justice Humphreys said, among other things, there was no failure on the part of the Council to comply with its obligations under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. Even if, counterfactually, the council’s decision was flawed, there would be a particular problem related to granting an order to quash the zoning changes because the applicants had only sought to quash the decision in relation to their own lands and not the core strategy that ensures compliance with national and regional policy. The same judge also dismissed a separate but similar case taken by McGarrell Reilly Homes Limited and Alcove Ireland Eight Limited’s case relative to land in Kilcock and Stamullen.

    The Supreme Court is no doubt cognisant that this issue is of general public importance currently, where many of the revised Development Plans are under legal challenge including those of Dublin City Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Wicklow as well as other challenges to Meath’s Plan.

    For further information, please contact Alison Fanagan, Consultant,  or any member of A&L Goodbody’s Environmental and Planning team.