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Dublin Airport second runway dispute: State argues there is no ‘right to an environment’ in Constitution

Friends of the Irish Environment claim the proposed runway will lead to increases in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.


LAWYERS FOR THE State have told the High Court that there is no “unenumerated right to an environment” contained the Irish Constitution.

The state was responding to claims contained in an environmental group’s challenge to a decision to extend the length of planning permission granted to the DAA to construct a second runway at Dublin Airport.

In proceedings against Fingal County Council and the State, Friends of the Irish Environment claim the proposed runway will lead to increases in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A part of its action it claims there is a constitutional right to life, bodily integrity, water, and health derived from an environment consistent with human dignity and well-being.

The group – represented by John Kenny Bl instructed by solicitor Fred Logue – say the proposed runway will lead to an increase in the pace of climate change and will impact on those rights.

In submissions on behalf of the State, Ciaran Toland SC said that there was no unenumerated right to an environment contained in the constitution.

Environmental policy was a matter for the Oireachtais and the government.

Counsel said the group’s claim that a legal right to an environment exists in 177 other countries was speculative.

Right implied

Any suggestion that that a right to an environment can be implied into the Irish constitution on the basis of an international consensus, when the European Court of Human Rights does not contain such a right, was misconceived.

The group’s action is the third of three actions challenging Fingal Council’s decision to extend by five years planning permission allowing DAA construct the runway.

DAA wants to build a new €320m, 3,110 metre runway, located on townlands north and north west of the airport terminal building as part of its plans to turn the airport into an international hub.

The action brought by environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment is against Fingal County Council as well as the State.

Dublin Airport Authority plc and Ryanair are notice parties.

The environmental group’s action has been brought on grounds including that the decision to extend planning permission is not in compliance with various EU directives.

These include the Habitats Directive as well as the 2000 Planning and Development Act and is unlawful.

It also claims Fingal County Council had not justified its decision in light of the National Transition Objective set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

The group has also raised a point in relation to the Constitutional recognition of environmental rights.

Other challenges

A second challenge against Fingal County Council’s decision has been brought by 22 individual residents – most with addresses at Kilreesk Lane, St Margaret’s, Co Dublin.

They claim the development is illegal on grounds including that Fingal County Council failed to consider or address their concerns about its effect on their homes and lands.

It is also their case that an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment of the possible impact the proposed development could have on the residents should have been carried out before the decision to extend the planning permission was granted.

The respondents and notice parties have opposed both actions.

The hearing of those two cases before Mr Justice Max Barrett continue.

The court has already reserved its decision in a third challenge brought by the St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group against the DAA.

In those proceedings group claims certain pre-construction works carried out by DAA in December 2016 on the proposed new runway amounts to unauthorised development.

It is claimed that the works were done before a waste management plan by the DAA was submitted to Fingal County Council breaches a condition of the original planning permission.

DAA denies the claim.

Read: “The planes fly right over our houses now, it didn’t used to be like this” – Living at the edge of Dublin Airport

Read: Residents group launch legal challenge over new Dublin Airport runway



See earlier:

Dublin: Planned new 2nd runway twist as IAA grounded on aircraft noise

Fresh complications are clouding the planned use of a new runway project at Dublin Airport after the Irish Government backtracked on proposals to put the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) in charge of enforcing an EU aircraft noise regulation.  New legal advice from the Attorney General’s office has meant that it “would not be consistent with the principles of good corporate governance of the IAA as a whole” to appoint the authority as the competent body to enforce the legislation, contained in regulation EU 598/14. The decision has left the Department of Transport scrabbling for an alternative to the IAA.  The EU regulation was introduced to reduce the noise impact from aircraft arriving and departing at airports in the EU. Its implementation could have consequences for Dublin Airport, where passenger traffic is expected to hit about 30 million this year. The DAA, which controls Dublin and Cork airports, has almost finished site preparation work for the new runway, and a tender for the actual runway construction is expected to be awarded next year. The runway is due to be operational in 2021. Local residents and groups have mounted High Court legal challenges against the runway plans.



2nd runway at Dublin airport threatens Heathrow’s position as main IAG hub

Heathrow may face more competition for hub traffic from Dublin, if there is a 2nd runway in 2020 – and airlines prefer using Dublin rather than Heathrow.  This might mean Heathrow being partly sidelined.  In May 2015 Aer Lingus, the Irish flag carrier, was bought by IAG (International Airlines Group) – which owns British Airways.  As part of IAG’s takeover there was the benefit of new routes and more long-haul flights from Dublin, where Aer Lingus is one of the two main airline customers, along with Ryanair. Willie Walsh, IAG’s CEO, said in 2015 that owning Aer Lingus would allow IAG “to develop our network using Dublin as a hub between the UK, continental Europe and North America, generating additional financial value for our shareholders”. Willie Walsh believed that buying Aer Lingus was a wise move, as it was “inevitable” that Dublin would get a 2nd runway in the next few years.  IAG believes that it can expand the group’s flights via Dublin or Madrid – especially if there is no new runway at Heathrow.  It could have the impact of removing business from Heathrow – British Airways is the largest airline there with around 50% of the slots.



Dublin Airport may buy 40 homes, already badly affected by noise, in bid to step up 2nd runway plans

Dublin airport was given consent for a 2nd runway in 2007, but due to the recession it was not started. There are now plans to start work in 2017, for completion in 2020, though as much has changed in the years since 2007 on the aviation market, questions are asked about whether the original consent should still be valid. Due to the inevitably increased noise from the 2nd runway, it is likely that around 40 houses (mainly in the St Margaret’s area 2-3km from the airport) would be bought by the airport, and negotiations are planned. Triple glazed window insulation will probably also be suggested for hundreds of other properties including schools. A spokeswoman for the St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group said the affected 30 home owners in her association are devastated but have no choice. The airport has assessed the level of noise necessitating house purchase based on 90 days of the airport’s busiest months from June to September. Residents, some of whom have been in the area for three generations, fear that a 2nd runway, with increasing frequency, growth in long haul services and more larger aircraft Dublin would compound the noise problem. The 40 homes are those affected now.  (There would be a whole lot more with a 2nd runway).

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Work to build Dublin 2nd runway could start in 2017 for completion in 2020

Dublin airport is to press ahead with building a 2nd main runway, resurrecting plans that were approved in August 2007 but then put on hold when Ireland was plunged into financial crisis after 2008. The 2 mile runway will be cost about €320 million (£258m) with work starting in 2017. It may be ready by 2020, to meet rising demand. Passenger numbers at Dublin are now back up to where they were before the recession, and although the airport is not yet at full capacity, it is congested at peak hours. There were around 25 million passengers in 2015. Passenger numbers are expected to rise further. Dublin to London is one of the world’s busiest international air routes, while the facility to pre-clear US immigration in Ireland has made Dublin popular with transatlantic travellers. Ireland cut is small charge of €3 on air tickets in 2013, while Northern Ireland continued to charge £13 in APD. Many people therefore travelled from Northern Ireland to Dublin, to save money. Ryanair has over 40% of the flights at Dublin backs the runway, as does IAG. Willie Walsh has said he might consider using Dublin more if Heathrow got a 3rd runway, and raised charges sharply. There are some conditions restricting night flights very slightly, (65 per night 11pm to 7am) with the 2nd runway.

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