THE High Court this week made an order to quash the Punches Cross planning development for a second time, which would have seen more than 300 new bedspaces for students in Limerick City.
An Bord Pleanála conceded the High Court judicial review of the build-to-rent and student development, comprising an estimated 326 bedspaces on a 0.77 hectare site in a settled residential area.
This marks the second time the High Court has quashed planning permission on the large scale development, having previously denied planning permission in October 2022.
The Punches Cross site has now been refused planning permission three times since 2019.
Labour Party councillor Joe Leddin this week deemed the news as extremely disappointing for the hundreds of students attending third level institutions in Limerick and struggling every year to find good quality affordable accommodation.
“The objections have been spurious and highly questionable in the context of environmental grounds as there remains several old petrol tanks seeping underground for decades causing harm to the environment,” Cllr Leddin told the Limerick Post.
“While all planning applications should provide for appeal procedures, we cannot allow indefinite time frames to continue hence our housing crisis is worsening daily.”
The City West representative took the view that planning laws are broken when single objectors can prevent development of derelict sites for years at no cost.
“Regrettably the government have failed to properly address our planning process. In emergencies, as we saw in the banking crash and more recently with Covid-19, emergency legislation was introduced. We need urgent action to give definitive timeframes on all residential developments to prevent clogging up our courts with unnecessary appeals,” he insisted.
Limerick solicitor and president of Environmental Trust Ireland, Michelle Hayes, who objected to the proposed development, believes a more appropriate use for the Punches Cross site would be to create a public amenity park or a biodiversity nature restoration area.
“The contaminated site was a former quarry and later a petrol station, containing corroded underground fuel storage tanks with toxic pollutants leaching to the groundwater which is extremely vulnerable for this site. Major environmental issues were raised in relation to the development by Environmental Trust Ireland in its submission to An Bord Pleanála,” she said.
“There will be no remittal to An Bord Pleanála or to the Council to re-consider the planning application this time, unlike previously.
“It remains to be seen how many times the developer will seek planning permission to develop this site, which is a contaminated site with numerous environmental issues.”