Developer Johnny Ronan's plan for two high-rise towers in Dublin's docklands has been turned down by An Bord Pleanála.

The Waterfront South Central development would have involved two towers - 45 storeys and 41 storeys high - along with a third 14-storey block involving a total of 1,005 apartments.

The plan was opposed by An Taisce and by environmentalists like Frank McDonald, who called the towers "the two fingers".

The planning board said it would have given permission for the development planned for the North Wall near the 3 Arena as it considered it complied with national planning guidelines.

However, it stated that it had to turn it down because of height limits specified in the local Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) plan.

The board said it had to take this decision following a High Court decision concerning the legal standing of an SDZ following a case taken by Dublin City Council.

Ronan Group Real Estate said it was "deeply disappointed" that the board felt it had to turn down the proposal even though it believed the plan to be the correct one for the site.

The statement said that Dublin City Council's "continued efforts to frustrate Government policy are impeding much needed development in this area of Dublin".

The company stated that it will be considering its options.

Planner Tom Phillips, who worked on the Waterfront South Central scheme, criticised the current planning situation.

He pointed out that an 18-storey development - the Castleforbes Strategic Housing Development for 700 rental units - was granted permission on the other side of the same street because it was not inside the local SDZ.

This area masterplan - the North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock SDZ - currently allows for buildings of up to eight storeys commercial and 10 storeys residential.

When another Johnny Ronan company, Spencer Place Development Company, applied to go above these limits for 500 apartments and co-living spaces on another docklands site, An Bord Pleanála granted permission.

The board cited The National Planning Framework 2040, which called for more development and greater density in urban areas and the ministerial guidelines 2018 which allowed developers to breach height limits in a development plan.

However, Dublin City Council took a case to the High Court and successfully challenged that decision on the basis that the SDZ guidelines were binding.

The city council pointed out that it had conducted its own review of the SDZ following the new national guidelines and this involved public consultation.

The Johnny Ronan company involved is currently appealing that High Court decision.

However, An Bord Pleanála has now acknowledged that it cannot breach these SDZ plans while that High Court decision remains in force.

In the meantime, An Bord Pleanála last March rejected the city council's proposed amendments to the docklands SDZ that would have increased building height to 25 storeys.

The new SDZ would have increased generally permitted heights from eight-storey commercial and 10-storey residential to 10 commercial and 13 residential.

It would also have permitted a landmark building on the site of Johnny Ronan's proposed towers of up to 25-storey residential.

However, the board overruled its own inspector's report and said the amendments did not go far enough in terms of increasing height and density as specified in national policy objectives to deliver compact growth.

Dublin City Council recently began a High Court challenge against that decision.