The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland earlier this month made an interesting decision in dismissing a legal appeal by the applicant against an earlier High Court judgement made to void a planning determination made by the Department of infrastructure (formerly Dept. of Environment) in 2017 to grant planning permission for a waste incinerator.
The Court of Appeal Decision upheld the High Court judgement that ruled against a Department of Infrastructure (DFI) determination to grant planning permission (granted on appeal) for a regionally significant infrastructural project (waste Incinerator).
The High Court in making its decision is establishing a principle of the Good Friday Agreement that on cross cutting matters involving input from several Government departments - with potential direct or indirect implications for local communities - the absence of a presiding Minister acting as head of the DFI means that a planning decision of such a controversial nature (and with due regard to the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement) cannot be determined by the DFI’s own civil servant head.
The potential for regionally significant development applications awaiting planning determination to incur additional delay is increasingly likely without a Minister being appointed to head up the Department. Meanwhile other regionally significant projects of a contentious nature with planning permission `secured’ could now in theory be susceptible to having their planning validity come under scrutiny through any new judicial review proceedings should such Developments have been approved by DFI since the collapse of the Stormont Assembly.