NEW BATTLE BEGINS

A NEW legal battle could be set to develop over a 10.85-acre piece of land on the Lower Point Road.

A NEW legal battle could be set to develop over a 10.85-acre piece of land on the Lower Point Road.

Last month the land, located next to the Sewerage Treatment Plant, was the subject of a High Court action with Mr Justice Hedigan deciding that McCaughey Developments Ltd – who bought the land from Dundalk Port Company in 2006 for e1.7 million – had been deprived of fair procedures when Dundalk Town Council voted to change the zoning from residential to recreation, amenity and open space.

The land had been bought by McCaughey Developments Ltd as residential but Mr Justice Hedigan found an injustice had been done to the company arising from the circumstances that led to the change of zoning on November 17 2009.

When a High Court judgement was made last month that the matter should be reconsidered, Dundalk Town Council opted not to contest the decision.

However, last week the Louth Environmental Group (LEG) lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to reinstate the council’s original decision to zone the land, which includes the old Quay Celtic soccer pitch, as an open space recreational amenity area.

Their appeal comes as McCaughey Developments have submitted a planning application to build 44 houses on the site with the LEG claiming that the council will be liable to make a e4.4 million payout in planning compensation unless they grant it.

They feel the land is unsuitable for residential use, however, and spokesperson Mark Fitzsimons, their acting secretary, said they will fight the matter all the way.

He said: “This is land which the councillors have confirmed by a vote of 11 to 0, with one abstention, they would prefer to see used as an open space recreational amenity area.

“The land is a wonderful natural habitat which greatly enhances the ambience of the Navvy Bank estuary walk. The old Quay Celtic soccer pitch is located there and is in constant use by children and youths. The land also provides an important flood water runoff attenuation catchment for the adjoining Point Road residential area.

“Although the High Court has quashed the decision of the council to zone the land for recreational amenity and open space use, an appeal which has been lodged by the Louth Environmental Group to the Supreme Court, seeks to reinstate the council’s zoning decision, but if this appeal fails, the Council will be obliged to either permit 44 houses to be built on the land or pay out around e4.4 million of planning compensation.”

Last month’s High Court case heard that Martin McCaughey, the managing director of McCaugheys, noticed in July 2009 that the zoning was no longer residential.

The High Court was told that officials immediately agreed a mistake had been made but told him a submission would have to be made to restore the residential zoning.

He made two submissions to the local authorities in September 2008 which he thought had dealt with the matter but another vote was required and when the revised draft plan came before councillors in November 2009 they voted to change the zoning to recreation, amentity and open space.

It was not until March 2010 that Mr McCaughey became aware of this and instituted High Court proceedings.

Mr Justice Hedigan said McCaugheys had been deprived of a crucial opportunity to make a case to restore the residential zoning.

The unfairness of this concerned the court particularly where McCaugheys had bought a strip of land for e155,000 from the council to facilitate access to the 10 acres and had also built an all-weather pitch for a local football club affected by the land sale at a cost of e350,000.