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The High Court in Dublin.

High Court hearing on Killaloe bypass

AN environmentalist has been refused leave to appeal against the rejection of his legal challenge to a grant of permission for a 2km bypass around Killaloe in South East Clare.

Peter Sweetman, and an environmental protection company, The Swans and the Snails Ltd, claimed the project, including construction of a 170 metre bridge over the River Shannon, would result in irreversible destruction of a woodlands habitat.

The habitat, an alluvial wet willow-alder-ash woodland, is located on the western side of the proposed bridge.

The High Court case was brought against An Bord Pleanala after it granted permission for the project in March 2013 to Clare County Council.

Mr Sweetman, Bunahowen Cashel, Countty Galway, and the company, with an address at Rossport, South Ballina, County Mayo, claimed an environmental impact assessment carried out by the Board did not comply with the Habitats Directive or planning legislation.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott dismissed their challenge last month after finding the board received comprehensive technical and factual information in environmental impact and natura impact statements submitted for the application, supplemented by further information requested by the board.

All that material was “subject to extensive exploration” at a hearing before a board inspector, the Board also did its own environmental impact assessment and had “ample information” for its decision, he held.

The applicants sought permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal but, in another judgment on Friday, Judge McDermott refused leave.

He ruled the applicants had failed to meet the requirement for an appeal – that the High Court’s decision raised a point of law of exceptional public importance.

Dismissing arguments Ireland has defaulted on its obligations under the Habitats Directive in this matter, the judge said the European Commission was satisfied the State had advanced a sufficient lst of “alluvial woodland” sites relevant to preservation of the named species for designation as Sites of Community Importance. (SCIs).

The 0.15 hectares of woodland in this case was not a “European site” entitled to the full range of protections under Article 6 of the Directive, he said.

This area of alluvial woodland will not be subject to permanent destruction but would instead be temporarily removed and recolonised, he said. An additional area of 0.76 hectares nearby would also be recolonised.

The level of protection provided under conditions set by the board for the woodland was of “such a high standard” it would easily fulfill the requirements of Article 6 protection if those applied here, he added.

He rejected additional arguments, arising from another High Court decision, legal uncertainty exists whether “shadow protection” must be granted to a site such as this which was not included among the State’s national list of alluvial woodland submitted to the European Commission.

By Mary Carolon

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