Environment and planning

Communities can feel excluded from planning and environmental decisions with little input into important areas such as large scale housing development, infrastructure or industrial development. Most impotantly, climate action decisions continue to be made with a top-down, industry first approach. At Prospect Law we strive to represent communities who wish to challenge the status quo. We provide excellent legal advice on all matters affecting our communties in the area of environmental law and planning.

Strategic housing developments

The majority of new housing development in Dublin consist of high rise, build-to-rent properties financed and owned by hedge funds. In the last three years, there have been a number of judgments of the High Court, in particular, and the Court of Appeal which have considered the outworking of a number of provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (“the 2000 Act”) and the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, as amended (“the 2016 Act”). These decisions of the Superior Courts have arisen, almost exclusively, in the context of applications for judicial review taken in respect of decisions made by An Bord Pleanála (“the Board”) pursuant to its statutory powers in respect of the Strategic Housing Development and Strategic Development Zone processes. These judicial review proceedings have been admitted to the Strategic Infrastructure Development & Commercial Planning List of the High Court, which was originally established in February 2018 to ensure that legal proceedings in respect of strategic infrastructure development projects are afforded an expeditious hearing. To this end, such proceedings are subject to active case management, and are assigned early hearing dates with judgments generally delivered within a short period of time after the hearing of the application for judicial review. Prospect Law has succssfully challenged developments on behalf of community groups in cases such Rathcairn v An Bord Pleanala

Strategic infrastructure Development

If you are a community group or simply a citizen, you are entitled to have your say and input into strategic infrastructure developments. The Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 significantly amended the 2000 Act to provide the procedure for applications for permission and approval in respect of certain types of strategic infrastructure development, including; energy, transport, environmental and health infrastructure projects. The streamlined procedure allows prospective applicants for development consent to directly engage with, and apply directly, to An Bord Pleanála in respect of the proposed development, rather than making a planning application to the appropriate planning authority or authorities.

Climate Action Litigation

Businesses could soon be facing a fresh wave of legal action holding them to account for their greenhouse gas emissions, owing to advances in climate science, experts have warned. More than 1,500 legal actions have already been brought against fossil fuel companies whose emissions over decades have played a major role in building up carbon in the atmosphere. In June 2021, in a shock ruling, the multinational oil and gas company Shell was ordered by a court in the Netherlands to cut its emissions by 45% in the next decade. Shell has said it will appeal against the decision. Earlier this month, a Belgian court ruled that the government’s failure to tackle the climate emergency was an infringement of human rights. In Ireland so far climate change litigation has been limited to policy and planning issues. The most successulf case is The Irish Environment -v- The Government of Ireland and The Attorney General which was a challenge to one of the main planks of Ireland’s national climate response, the ‘National Mitigation Plan’ (the statutory national plan for reducing the State’s greenhouse gas emissions that was required under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 i.e. before that Act was amended by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. In its decision (judgment delivered 31 July 2020), the Supreme Court agreed with one element of the Friends of the Irish Environment challenge – that the National Mitigation Plan was deficient for not conforming to the degree of specificity envisaged for the Plan in statute (the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015). The decisive finding is Chief Justice Clarke’s statement: “In my judgment the Plan falls a long way short of the sort of specificity which the statute requires. I do not consider that the reasonable and interested observer would know, in any sufficient detail, how it really is intended, under current government policy, to achieve the NTO by 2050 on the basis of the information contained in the Plan. Too much is left to further study or investigation.” The ‘Plan’ referred to by the Chief Justice was what was then (in the 2015 Act as originally enacted) called the ‘national mitigation plan’. 1The ‘statute’ refers to Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The ‘NTO’ refers to a concept or objective created in the 2015 Act and called (in the Act) the ‘’National Transition Objective’ (and defined in section 3 of the 2015 Act as the “the State’s transition by 2050 to a ‘low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy’.