The High Court has ruled that a planning application for an incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour can be resubmitted to An Bord Pleanála for consideration.
The court quashed a 2018 decision to grant permission for the €160m waste facility, but Indaver Ireland will not have to start the application process from the beginning.
Instead, the application can be reconsidered by the board from a particular stage in the planning process.
Mr Justice David Barniville said there was no reason in principle why an application could not be remitted where a decision was quashed by the court on grounds of objective bias.
Indaver welcomed the decision and said it looked forward to participating in the next stage of the process.
A spokesperson said: "As we have said previously, our proposed facility in Ringaskiddy is fully in line with EU, national and regional waste policy. The Southern Region Waste Management Plan supports the development of up to 300,000 tonnes of thermal recovery capacity for the treatment of municipal waste."
Last March, the judge ruled in favour of a local environmental group who took a legal challenge against the incinerator in Ringaskiddy.
Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) succeeded in two of 11 grounds in its challenge to a decision by An Bord Pleanála three years ago to grant permission for the incinerator.
After the March judgment, CHASE had argued the permission should be simply quashed because the board had not shown any insight into how the court's findings affect public appreciation of its decision making.
Indaver Ireland, which has been seeking since 2001 to build the incinerator, and the board, said the board should be allowed to reconsider the planning application at a particular stage and in line with the court’s March judgment.
In his March judgment, Mr Justice Barniville had described on of the grounds on which CHASE succeeded as the "most significant issue in the case".
He found a decision of An Bord Pleanála was affected by objective bias. One of the board's members, then deputy chairman Conall Boland, had previously worked for a firm of consultants engaged by Indaver Ireland Limited on reviews to Cork county and city councils' waste management plans.
The judge said the work done by Mr Boland while employed by RPS MCOS Consulting Engineers was a "clear, rational and cogent connection" with Indaver's application to the board for permission for the development of the waste to energy facility at Ringaskiddy.
The judge noted there was no allegation of actual bias against Mr Boland or the board, but he was satisfied CHASE had established a reasonable objective observer would have a reasonable apprehension the board might not be capable of considering Indaver's application in an impartial manner because of the prior professional association of Mr Boland.
Today the judge ruled the appropriate point in the planning process to which the remittal should be made was the point immediately before the decision, made on behalf of the board by its then deputy chairperson, Mr Boland, on 23 October 2017, not to afford CHASE and others the opportunity of responding to further information and submissions received form Indaver earlier in October 2017.
Mr Justice Barniville rejected the submission by the applicants that remitting the application to the board would undermine the integrity of and public confidence in the board.
He also said while not expressly directing, I would recommend that, if practically possible, any member who remains on the board and who was involved in the making of the impugned decision in May 2018 should not be involved in the consideration and determination of the remitted application adding: "If, however, that is not practically possible, the doctrine of necessity may arise, but I express no view whatsoever on that question at this stage.
"However, for present purposes, a critical factor in my view is the fact that Mr. Boland will not be involved when the Board comes to consider the remitted application."
In March the judge also found in favour of the group in relation to arguments made concerning the interpretation of Strategic Infrastructure Development provisions of the 2000 Planning Act.
He concluded the person who applies for permission for a Strategic Infrastrucure Development must be the same entity as the person referred to in the relevant provisions as the "prospective applicant".
CHASE argued that Indaver's Belgian arm was the prospective applicant which participated in pre application consultation with the board. It argued that the board did not therefore have jurisdiction to determine the 2016 planning application made by Indaver's Irish arm.
Today he said the board may amend the name of the applicant for permission to reflect the name of the originally intended applicant namely Indaver NV, trading as Indaver Ireland.
He accepted the application was made in the name of Indaver Ireland Ltd as a result of a clerical error.
CHASE Chairperson Mary O'Leary said: "We won our case securing an unprecedented objective bias judgement against Bord Pleanála and now we are putting the bord on notice to make a fair and lawful decision or they will face us again in the future.
"Since this 2016 application the landscape of policy, of EU legislation and of Cork Harbour itself have changed entirely, which must all be considered now in assessing this application. The reality is we will never allow this incinerator to be built in Cork Harbour."