Court refuses year-long pause to order requiring removal of shipping containers from north Dublin lands

Court refuses year-long pause to order requiring removal of shipping containers from north Dublin lands

The High Court has refused to grant a 12-month stay on an order requiring a freight company to cease storing shipping containers on lands where it lacks planning permission to carry out that activity.

The company storing the containers, Stateline Freight Limited, claimed that a failure to grant it time to make alternative arrangements had a major economic impact on importers and exporters using Dublin Port.

The court heard the case arose after Tesco Ireland Limited entered into a 10-year lease agreement allowing Stateline to store between 1,500 and 2,000 containers, stacked in towers of five or more, at lands owned by the supermarket chain at Compass Distribution Park, in Santry, Dublin.

Fingal County Council brought proceedings against Tesco under section 160 of the 2000 Planning and Development Act, claiming that the storage of the containers, which began in 2020, was unauthorised development.

Tesco then sued Stateline seeking various orders including an injunction requiring the unauthorised development to cease.

That action was compromised last month, with Stateline agreeing to the terms of the injunction.

As part of the settlement, Tesco said it was prepared to place a 12-month stay on the injunction coming into force.

Tesco accepted the granting of the stay was ultimately a matter for the High Court judge hearing the case.

Stateline sought the stay on grounds including it needed time to buy an alternative site and to obtain planning permission for the storage of containers there.

It also claimed the immediate cessation of the activities would have a “catastrophic effect on the freight business generally” and claimed the loss of container storage space would result in additional costs for importers and exporters.

In his judgment on Monday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said the court was not prepared to grant the stay.

There was no discretionary features that merited the court granting the stay, he said. He gave Stateline six weeks to remove the containers.

The court said Stateline could apply to the relevant planning authorities for temporary planning permission for the activity but such an application was not a matter for the courts.

The judge said the court enjoys a discretion to grant such a stay for such a large-scale development that lacks planning permission. However, he said, the breach in this case was “conscious and deliberate”.

The evidence before the court “fails to establish that the economic effects of the closure of the unauthorised container storage facility are such that it would be in the public interest to allow the unauthorised use to continue unabated for a further twelve months”.

The court noted that not only is there no planning permission for the container storage facility, but retention permission was refused by the planning authority on grounds including material contravention of the development plan, adverse impact on residential amenity and potential traffic hazards.

The decision regarding retention is under appeal to An Bord Pleanála, the judge added.

The judge said that “recent case law from the Supreme Court has emphasised that there is a strong public interest in upholding the integrity of the planning and development system”.

“This aspect of the public interest has to be weighed in the balance against any countervailing public interest asserted such as, relevantly, any assertion that an unauthorised development involves the provision of an important infrastructural facility or service,” he added.

Both the Attorney General and Fingal County Council were notice parties to the stay application.

The matter will return before the court later this month.

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