Council may face legal action over castle plan

by Sylvia Pownall

OBJECTORS to a controversial development at Malahide Castle are considering legal action after the proposal was voted through on Monday by Fingal County Council.
The tree-top forest adventure area and car park at Malahide Demesne has split the community – and the council – with the project getting the green light by the narrowest of margins in a vote that saw 18 in favour, and 16 against.
Members of the Save the Castle Woodland action group handed in a petition with more than 2,000 signatures just minutes before the council meeting was due to start.
In reaction to the vote, the group later posted on its Facebook page: “The game is on. I would ask you, the people who are against this commercial decision made tonight by Fingal County Council, to contact us.”
The group also appealed for any legal eagles with an interest in helping out to get in touch, while Fingal’s own law agent warned the council the project could be taken to judicial review.
The forest adventure facility – involving the installation of tree-top zip lines – was voted down by the Howth/Malahide Area Committee of the council by five votes to three just weeks ago.
The proposed reconfiguration of sports pitches at Bridgefield into a car and coach park is the most contentious issue.
Cllr Cian O’Callaghan (SD) believes the proposal for the adventure area should have been submitted independently of the car park. Some councillors claimed public consultation had been inadequate, and Fingal’s law agent warned that the proposal could be open to legal challenge.
In a letter to the council’s planning department, she said: “It would be anticipated that such a proposal be accompanied by plans and specifications setting out this detail, planners’ report, conservation report, arborist report, traffic safety report etc appropriate to the overall development.
“An administrative body exercising decision-making function is bound by the limits of the applicable legislative code which circumscribes its operation, and non-observance of that code renders it amenable to judicial review.”
At Monday’s meeting, council chief Paul Reid told members he was confident the law agent’s concerns were being addressed.
More than 50 submissions were received outlining concerns – in particular, the fact that the additional car and coach parking facility would invite more traffic and cause further congestion in Malahide.
Cllr O’Callaghan, who has been opposed to the development from the start, said the council failed to submit detailed plans or drawings.
He said: “Councillors are being asked to make a planning decision without sufficient information. That is not acceptable.”

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