An Bord Pleanála has turned down Dublin City Council's new planning scheme for the Docklands because it does not allow enough height and density.

The North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) plan covers the site of Johnny Ronan's proposed 45 and 41-storey towers and would have meant those towers limited to 25 storeys. 

It also covers the site of the proposed Salesforce Tower on another Johnny Ronan site which has become the focus of a court battle between An Bord Pleanála and the city council. 

The board allowed a plan by a Johnny Ronan company to build a 13-storey commercial space which was in breach of the 8-storey limit in the existing SDZ.

However, the city council successfully argued in the High Court that the SDZ for the area sets the legal parameters for development including building height. This has since gone to the Court of Appeal.

The city council had applied for permission to amend the SDZ to reflect new Ministerial guidelines on heights published in 2018 and submitted a revised plan in 2019 to the planning board.

This would have increased the permitted heights in the SDZ from 8-storey commercial or 10 residential to 10 residential/13 commercial. 

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

However, the board overruled its own inspector's report - submitted just over a year ago on 10 March, 2020 - which recommended permission be granted for this new SDZ. 

The board's decision signed by deputy chairman Paul Hyde said the plan did not go far enough in reflecting national policy objectives to deliver compact growth.

"With no material increase in residential or employment provision, it is unclear how this could assist in the delivery of, or further enhance, the objective for compact growth or increased height and density," it stated.

Kevin Duff of An Taisce criticised the decision as a "complete facilitation of development interests" and said it will lead to the abandonment of plan-led developments. 

Environmentalist Frank McDonald said the board seems to be putting it up to the city council to go along with "Johnny's 'Two Fingers' plan" and that it appears to represent a complete capitulation to the "Planning Industrial Complex". 

He added: "It would make anyone who cares about proper planning and sustainable development despair." 

However, planning consultant Tom Philips said the board made the right decision and that it will make the council go back and "undertake a thorough analysis and come up with a plan that reflects government policy".

He also said that the board had told the city council to undertake a proper consultation process with landowners and other parties.