High Court allows development of homeless accommodation to go ahead

Author: Susie Higgins and Honor Hargaden

March 6, 2017

On 18 January 2017, in the case of Kenny Byrnes v Dublin City Council [2017] IEHC 19, the High Court refused an application for an order for certiorari to quash a decision of Dublin City Council authorising the development of two Georgian houses in Dublin 2, into supported temporary accommodation (“STA”) for homeless people. The STA is to be operated by Dublin Simon Community. The applicant, Mr Byrnes, lives with his family nearby.

On 2 February 2015, the Council authorised refurbishment works and change of use of a property known as “Longfield House” under the special scheme for local authority development created by the Planning and Development Act 2000 (the “Act”) and the Planning and Development Regulation (the “2001 Regulations”). The applicant was not entitled to appeal the decision of the Council under the 2001 Regulations and therefore used the judicial review procedure to challenge the decision.

While the applicant challenged the decision on five grounds of review, his substantial argument was that the proposed development constituted a “material contravention” of the Dublin City Development Plan, 2011 – 2017 (the “Development Plan”) and was in breach of the Act.  As well as setting out policies and objectives for the development of Dublin City, the Development Plan also identified concerns with regard to the provision of services to alleviate homelessness in Dublin city.  The main submissions made by the applicant in respect of this argument were:

  1. Material contravention with regard to user

The applicant argued that the Council’s decision was invalid as Longfield House is located within a Georgian Conservation Area (“GCA”). He submitted that allowing Longfield House to become STA would defeat the overall objective of the special designation of the GCA under the Development Plan which is to protect “the existing architectural and civic design character” of the area.  The applicant argued that the proposed use of Longfield House as STA would be contrary to the residential character of the Georgian streets and squares. The applicant also submitted that Longfield House would be a “treatment facility for persons with particular problems” similar to other facilities in the city centre. The Court rejected the submission that Longfield House would become a “treatment facility” as speculation.

  1. No public benefit

The applicant argued that there was no public benefit to the STA being provided at Longfield House. Judge Baker rejected this submission and stated that; “it stretches argument to say that the persons who are homeless in Dublin, or those who are likely to become homeless, …. are not classified as members of the public in the sense in which that phrase is used in the Development Plan.”

Justice Baker dismissed the application for certiorari on all five grounds of review.

Please click here for link to the full judgment.

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