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Ample material before An Bord Pleanála to justify planning decision

By: Mark Tottenham BL

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Supreme Court allows appeal from High Court, and sets aside grant of certiorari of a decision of An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission to a long wave transmitting station, on the grounds that: (a) the court could not interfere with an administrative decision unless it was fundamentally at variance with common sense or there was no material before the decision maker to justify the decision; (b) there was ample material before the Board to justify the decision; (c) the Board had given sufficient reasons for its decision for an intelligent person to understand it.

Finlay CJ (nem diss): Appeal by An Bord Pleanála - judicial review of decision to grant planning permission - Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts 1973 to 1983 - erection of long wave transmitting station - whether ultra vires - history of proceedings - no oral evidence at trial - documents opened to trial judge - no agreed set of facts - report of Board's inspector - report of special expert - decision by trial judge that Board's decision was so irrational and in breach of common sense as to be a nullity - whether other matters taken into account - failure to state reasons - failure to keep minutes of deliberations - joinder of party to appeal - whether fundamentally at variance with reason and common sense - whether in the teeth of plain reason - whether decision maker had flagrantly rejected or disregarded fundamental reason - decision making process - alleged absence of reasons.

"The Court cannot interfere with the decision of an administrative decision-making authority merely on the grounds that: (a) it is satisfied that on the facts as found it would have raised different inferences and conclusions, or (b) it is satisifed that the case against the decision made by the authority was much stronger than the case for it.
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I am satisfied that in order for an applicant for judicial review to satisfy a court that the decision making authority has acted irrationally in the sense which I have outlined above so that the court can intervene and quash its decision, it is necessarty that the applicant should establish to the satisfaction of the court that the decision-making authority had before it no relevant material which would support its decision.
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I am driven to the conclusion that in the recitals of evidence given before the inspector, which are contained in his report, there is ample material on all the vital issues concerning this planning decision which would justify the Board in rejecting the concluding recommendations made by their inspector, notwithstanding the strength and clarity of those recommendations.
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What must be looked at is what an intelligent person who had taken part in the appeal or had been appraised of the broad issues which had arisen in it would understand from this document, these conditions and these reasons.
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If an applicant for judicial review who has obtained liberty from the High Court to proceed in his claim upon the discovery of documents ascertains that there is not discovered a full minute or a list or an account of what the relevant material was before the decision-making authority at the time it reached its decision, then it would be necessary for such applicant to call upon the authority concerned to deliver such list or, if necessary, to answer interrogatories concerning the question of the relevant material which was before it."

McCarthy J (concurring): Ample material on all vital issues to justify Board's decision - burden of proof - need to obtain disclosure of relevant materials.

Note: This is intended to be a fair and accurate report of a decision made public by a court of law. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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