The construction of 1,592 homes near Croke Park has been blocked due to a lack of planning permission

The construction of 1,592 flats at Drumcondra in Dublin has been blocked by the High Court due to flaws in planning permission.

Approval for the €602 million build-to-rent scheme, which includes studios, one-, two- and three-bedrooms, was granted to the Irish arm of US real estate giant Hines in November 2021.

The strategic housing development proposal attracted more than 120 submissions, including Sinn Féin Chairwoman Mary Lou McDonald, who said approval would only exacerbate the housing crisis.

The 12 blocks of flats, ranging in height from two to 18 storeys, were to be built on the site of the former Holy Cross Seminary on Clonliffe Road.

The scheme’s expedited approval was challenged in the High Court by Fionuala Sherwin, of Knocksinna Grove, Foxrock, Dublin, who describes herself as a practicing Catholic.

Judge Richard Humphreys ruled on her in-court review action today, saying An Bord Pleanála failed to follow the required approach to assessing the impact of a development on a protected structure.

There are some parts of the former Dublin Diocesan Seminary at Clonliffe, including “distinctive brick arches” that need to be demolished and lie within the courtyard of protected buildings, he added.

The judge also found that he did not adequately address Dublin City Council’s serious concerns about how mature trees and “historic landscaping” would be adversely affected by a significant basement development.

He said he will issue an executive order to revoke the development permit.

In a submission to the board on behalf of Dublin City Council, its conservation officer recommended that the project be rejected due to the impact on protected structures and the undesirability of a large underground structure, the judge said.

The official said the height, scale and bulk of the 18-story block are “excessive in this context and will completely dominate and seriously violate the architectural environment of the protected buildings.”

The protected buildings in this case are the former seminary and the 18th century Fortick’s Almshouse, known as the Red House.

The tower will also violate the Drumcondra area and would be “clearly visible from a distance from other parts of the historic city,” the official added, recommending that this block be withdrawn from development.

However, the agency’s inspector felt the removal of the 18-story block was unnecessary as it could stand side-by-side with existing protected buildings without damage. The judge said the committee’s inspector did not address concerns about the Red House’s radically reduced perimeter.

The agency’s inspector advised approval. The decision approving the program was signed by former Vice-Chairman Paul Hyde.

Mr Justice Humphreys disagreed with the Board’s finding that the development did not represent an explicit departure from the local development plan.

“It simply cannot be said that such massively larger and bulkier buildings within the properties and associated grounds will respect the mass and scale of the protected structures,” he said.

The judge found other flaws in the committee’s “extremely vague” approach to balancing the need for development and compliance with national policies on the one hand, and preserving the character and setting of the site and historic structures on the other.

The planning board failed to meet the requirements of the building protection laws and failed to address the violations of the listed material of the local development plan, the judge said.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the board’s “quite dismissive, if not depending on your point of view disrespectful” attitude towards the council’s concerns was not an isolated phenomenon.

It’s possible, he said, that such an approach, rather than just questioning the name on the signing of the board resolution, could hurt public confidence in An Bord Pleanála.

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