Protect East Meath Ltd v Meath County Council

CourtHigh Court
JudgeHumphreys J.
Judgment Date01 July 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] IEHC 395
Docket Number[2021 No. 958 JR]

In the Matter of Section 50, 50A and 50B of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and in the Matter of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016

Protect East Meath Limited
Meath County Council

[2022] IEHC 395

[2021 No. 958 JR]

[2022 No. 6 COM]




JUDGMENT of Humphreys J. delivered on Friday the 1st day of July, 2022


The applicant challenges the validity of part of the Meath County Development Plan centreing on the zoning on sheet 35A relating to the southern environs of Drogheda. The applicant also seeks declaratory relief in relation to alleged shortcomings in the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process.


I will refer to these proceedings as Protect East Meath II to distinguish them from Protect East Meath I, the subject of the judgment in Protect East Meath v. An Bord Pleanála [2020] IEHC 294, [2020] 6 JIC 1901 (Unreported, High Court, McDonald J., 19 th June, 2020). I appreciate that the applicant has launched other proceedings in the meantime, but the foregoing is the only judgment immediately to hand where it is listed first.


The general facts in relation to the adoption of the Meath County Development Plan are set out in ( [2022] IEHC 393 Killegland v. Meath County Council Unreported, High Court, 1st July, 2022) and ( [2022] IEHC 394 McGarrell Reilly v. Meath County Council Unreported, High Court, 1st July, 2022), which can be incorporated by reference here. I can recapitulate some of the main points and add to them in the specific context of this case as follows.


The previous County Development Plan was adopted in December 2012, and came into operation in January 2013.


On 19 th May, 2014, Variation No. 2 was adopted. Section 3.3 states that “there is presently an excess of residentially zoned land contained in most of the towns and villages in Meath for which Local Area Plans had been prepared.”


Volume 5 of the previous Development Plan as amended by Variation No. 2 set out a strategic policy objective “to operate an order of priority for the release of residential lands”.


Table 5 showed 19.9 ha required for residential use in the southern environs of Drogheda, but 157.2 ha zoned for residential use, leading to an excess of 139.1 ha. Regard was had to the need for “consistency with sequential approach to urban expansion and contribution to a compact urban form” (p. 383).


Nine residential sites in the southern environs of Drogheda were given a rank whereby site 5 was marked first, sites 1, 2 and 9 were given a Phase I* ranking (meaning part of the site) and all other sites were assigned to Phase II. Thus, most of the A2 (new residential) lands in the southern environs of Drogheda were assigned as residential Phase II (post 2019), which was shown in hatched yellow on the maps in the Development Plan.


The Development Plan review process commenced in December 2016.


The Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy 2019–2031 was adopted by the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly on 28 th June, 2019. That adopts a target figure of population for Drogheda of 50,000 by 2013 (section 4.2). It also includes a regional policy objective RPO 4.11 which requires the preparation of a joint urban area plan for Drogheda to be agreed between Meath and Louth County Councils.


The SEA environmental report for the Draft Development Plan was published in December 2019 and the draft plan went on public display on 18 th December, 2019. That proposed removing the phasing arrangement for the southern environs of Drogheda and thus releasing all of the hatched yellow lands to become simply A2 new residential. Submissions closed on 6 th March, 2020 and a number of relevant submissions were made.


The applicant made a submission dated 6 th March, 2020 which among other things objected to the lack of assessment of alternatives and the need for monitoring of significant environmental affects including traffic and air quality, particularly in relation to Julianstown. The applicant enclosed a transport impact study by SLR Consulting Ltd. dated February 2020.


A number of landowners also supported removal of the phasing for the zoning of their lands.


Louth County Council also made a submission the relevant part of which is as follows:

“Managing growth in South Drogheda

The Draft Plan has projected a population increase of 3,300 persons in the Southern Environs of Drogheda by 2026. This equates to a 49% increase in the population of the Southern Environs, which was 6,757 persons in 2016. The total population of Drogheda in 2016 was 40,956 persons. The RSES projects that in 2031 the population of Drogheda will be 50,000. Whilst it is acknowledged that this figure of 50,000 is not a cap on population, it is unclear if the population projection for the Southern Environs in the Draft Plan has taken cognisance of the RSES figure. Clarity should be provided in this regard. The land use zoning map for the Southern Environs of Drogheda in Volume 3 of the Plan included 178 hectares of land zoned ‘New Residential’. In the 2009–2015 Local Area Plan for the Southern Environs a significant proportion of these lands were identified as ‘Phase 2’ and were not available for development.

Louth County Council would have concerns with the quantum of lands zoned for residential use in this location, which appears to be significantly in excess of that required to meet the projected population in the plan period. The rationale for making all these lands available for development and not including a ‘strategic reserve’ of residential lands is unclear. This is particularly pertinent given the pressure this area is currently under for development, which is evident by the number and scale of Strategic Housing Development proposals in the area.

Section of the Core Strategy in the Draft Plan indicates that Meath County Council will closely monitor development activity in the Southern Environs pending the preparation of the Joint Urban Area Plan. Whilst this is acknowledged, no details have been provided as to how this monitoring would be carried out and how development would be managed in circumstances where the level of development activity would result in a population in excess of that projected.

Given that a timeframe for preparing the Joint Plan has yet to be agreed it is critical that a robust strategy is put in place that manages growth in the area and ensures that the level of development permitted does not undermine the long term growth strategy of the settlement to be agreed as part of the Joint Plan.”


In addition, the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) made a submission on the draft.


The Chief Executive then reported on 13 th August, 2020 in relation to the submissions. Without setting out the responses in detail, it is worth noting the response to Louth County Council which is as follows:

“It has been considered that the phasing or de-zoning of land in the absence of a joint plan would be premature and as such it is considered that the zonings outlined in the draft Plan are appropriate at this time. As per CS OBJ 3, it is noted that the Planning Authority will ensure the implementation of the Core Strategy and as such this should be sufficient until the joint plan is agreed between Meath County council and Louth County Council. It is also noted that this matter has been considered as part of the response to the OPR (MH-C5-816) as well as EMRA (MH-C5-60).”


Motions to amend the plan were proposed by members and reported on by the Chief Executive in October 2020. The members then voted on the various motions and that process gave rise to material amendments which went on display from 31 st May to 29 th June, 2021.


As part of that process the applicant made a submission via its solicitors dated 28 th June, 2021 demanding retention of the previous phasing and threatening proceedings if that was not done. The applicant's solicitors enclosed a report from Marston Planning Consultancy dated 28 th June, 2021.


The OPR also made a submission at the material amendment stage.


On 12 th August, 2021, the Chief Executive reported on the submissions and material amendments and final decisions on those amendments were taken at special meetings of the members on 20 th to 22 nd September, 2021 with the plan being finally adopted on the latter date.


In the adopted plan the relevant map is 35A and all of the previously hatched yellow lands are shown as simply A2 new residential in yellow. The rationale of this is set out at section of the core strategy as follows:

“In recognition of the requirement for a co-ordinated strategy to maximise the growth potential of Drogheda, which is designated as a Regional Growth Centre in the NPF, Regional Policy Objective (RPO) 4.11 in the RSES sets out the requirement for the preparation of a Joint Urban Area Plan for the town between Meath and Louth County Council.

It is acknowledged that any amendments to the land use zoning strategy for the Southern Environs of Drogheda would be premature pending the preparation of this Joint Plan. However, the Council also recognises that Drogheda is one of the principle areas for population and economic growth in the Eastern and Midland Region outside Dublin.

Taking this into account it is important that land use availability is reflective of its position in the settlement hierarchy and its anticipated role in the future growth and development of the Region, which is to act as a regional driver of economic growth. The ‘Residential Phase II’ designation on the A2 ‘New Residential’ lands in the Southern Environs of Drogheda has, therefore, been removed with these A2 ‘New Residential’ land retained and being made available for development.

This will ensure there is sufficient land available to facilitate population growth and economic...

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4 cases
  • Environmental Trust Ireland v an Bord Pleanála
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 3 October 2022
    ...s.8(5) of the 2016 Act. 34 As to quashing documents rather than decisions, see generally Protect East Meath Ltd v Meath County Council [2022] IEHC 395 35 See further below 36 The SHD provisions of the 2016 Act have since expired. 37 S.3 2016 Act 38 Case C-127/02, Landelijke Vereniging tot B......
  • O'Donnell and Others v an Bord Pleanála and Others
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    • 5 July 2023
    ...7 JIC 0106 Unreported, High Court, 1st July, 2022) §75, 78, 79, 99, 114, 190. (viii) Protect East Meath Ltd v. Meath County Council [2022] IEHC 395, ( [2022] 7 JIC 0108 Unreported, High Court, 1st July, 2022) §57. (ix) McGarrell Reilly Homes Ltd v. Meath County Council [2022] IEHC 394, ( [2......
  • Protect East Meath Ltd v Meath County Council (No. 2)
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    • 17 February 2023
    ...viewing the matter in purely geographical terms. Facts 4 . Many of the relevant facts are outlined in Protect East Meath (II) (No. 1) [2022] IEHC 395, ( [2022] 7 JIC 0108 Unreported, High Court, 1st July, 2022) but a few highlights may suffice 5 . The previous County Development Plan was ad......
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    • 3 May 2023
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