The Supreme court has granted An Taisce an order restraining the operation of McTigue Quarry in Galway after finding it to be unauthorised.
However the court put a six month stay on the injunction against the stone quarry 7km outside of Tuam.
The six month stay on the order was put in place because the court lacked sufficient information on the consequences of ceasing operations.
Delivering the court’s unanimous verdict, Mr Justice John MacMenamin said there had been material breaches of planning code and cited the public interest in upholding the planning process.
According to the Irish Times the court was highly critical of how “impenetrable” the planning process was to the general public, with confusing paperwork discouraging participation.
This case had previously come before the High Court, which ruled in 2016 that the McTigue Quarry was an unauthorised development but declined to issue an injunction against operations, referring the matter to Galway county council.
This week the Supreme Court said that suggestions that Galway County Council had been a customer of the quarry put it at risk of conflicting interests as the planning authority.
Planning permission by retention
In 2008, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that all member states must require that projects which are likely to have an impact on the environment submit an EIA before approval be given.
It followed Galway county council giving a wind farm at Derrybrien “retention” permission for operations, which the State accepted as common.
The CJEU said that regularising retention could lead to developers moving ahead without ascertaining if the project requires an EIA.
From the 2008 ruling, Ireland included Section 1770 in the Planning and Development Act 2010 to enact the court’s directive.
After 2008, local authorities were told to register quarries under their jurisdiction to determine their legal status.
But McTigue Quarry was never officially given planning approval by the council or An Bord Pleanála, Judge MacMenamin noted.
In 2012 the county council ruled that the quarry could apply for a “substitute consent”, which An Bord Pleanála granted in 2015.
The Supreme Court said there were several puzzling aspects to that decision.
McTigue Quarries had argued that the substitute consent it was granted was the same as permission under the 2000 Planning and Development Act.
The court rejected this argument, saying there was a “world of difference” between this substitute and real planning permission.
In order for there to have been valid planning permission, the Judge said, there must be evidence of an EIA being carried out, or the development must fall into the category identified in Section 1770 of the 2010 Act.
Neither of those applied in this instance, the court found.