A recent High Court ruling allowed the developer of a proposed student accommodation project near UCD to commence clearance works pending the hearing of a challenge to its planning permission. This ruling has since been given a stay by the same High Court judge as the successful applicants have now received a 10-day window to file an appeal against the decision.

The issue was originally brought before the courts in a judicial review case arising out of two local residents query against An Bord Pleanála’s granting of permission for the 698- bed eight-block development, citing their fears that the proposed project constitutes a “significant” over-development of the site. 

Among the main arguments advanced against the project were that it contravenes requirements for open spaces, building heights and provision of social housing. Furthermore, the residents claim that the project would be in breach of EU provisions on the protection of habitats as the loss of trees on the site would result in irreparable environmental harm to the local area, including the destruction of bat and bird habitat.

Mr Justice David Holland consequently imposed a stay, precluding the removal of trees from the former site of Our Lady’s Grove school in Goatstown, less than a kilometre from UCD. This stay has been reimposed for a period of 10 days. If the resident applicants fail to file an appeal within this period, the clearance works will be able to re-commence.

Colbeam Ltd, the developer, argued that delay in completion of the build beyond the summer of 2024 could potentially cause the company a €10.5 million loss, as the accommodation would not be ready for the beginning of the next school year as they had planned and consequently asked the court to allow clearance works to continue while the local residents bring the planning permission challenge. 

Mr Justice Holland has nevertheless allowed elements of clearance works, including the removal of trees, that precede the handover of the site to the main construction contractor to commence.   

He stated that he was not convinced by the hyperbole of either party as to the adverse result of the works. 

Furthermore, he stated that Colbeam should not be put at appreciable risk of immense losses of some “early mature” oaks which would be replaced. He stressed that the protection of bats will be achieved if found they are found on-site but expert evidence must be advanced if this is the case.

Mr Justice Holland attempted to strike a balance between environmental protection interests and the housing crisis issue. The scales, in terms of the limited lifting of the stay in this case, fell towards to need to provide more student accommodation. 

Mac Codlatáin Domhnall – Reporter

Additional Reporting – Mahnoor Choudhry, Co-Editor