Legal challenge to plans for former St Patrick's Classical School

A High Court challenge has been launched over plans to renovate and restore a protected building that had previously been used as a secondary school into the Meath County archive.

The cases centres around Meath County Council's plans to restore the derelict, but architectural significant former St Patrick Classical School in Navan.

The action has been taken by award winning engineer and architect Paul Leech, from Kilmainham in Dublin 8.

It has been brought on grounds including that the Council allegedly failed to conduct a second survey during the summer months to properly assess the suitability of the site as a roost for bats, which are a protected species.

That failure, Mr Leech claims, meant the council lacked the information it requires under the EU Habitats' directive to reach a conclusion that would allow the proposed works to proceed.

It is also claimed that due to the alleged lack of information before it the Council had erred in law in its assessment that the proposed development is not likely to have a significant impact on any nearby environmental sensitive sites.

In the past the building,, constructed in the 19th century, had operated as St Finian's Seminary Study Hall, which relocated to Mullingar.

In the 1930's the building housed St Patrick's Classical School for boys, before the school relocated to a campus on the outskirts of the town in the 1970's.

The school's famous past pupils and teachers include Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran, 'Hector' Ó hEochagáin and GAA star and former RTE pundit Colm O'Rourke,

In his judicial review proceedings Mr Leech, who is also a past pupil of St Patricks', claims that a bat survey had been conducted by an expert in February 2022.

The expert recommended that a further survey be carried on during the bat roosting season between May and August.

Mr Leech claims that a follow up report was not carried out by the Council, which he says was required under the Habitats Directive.

The Council he said did not have the required information concerning bats that would allow it reach a conclusion that the proposed works comply with the Habitats Directive.

He also claims that when arriving at its decision the council also failed to have regard that the proposed development on two nearby special areas of conservation.

Represented by Evan O'Donnell Bl instructed by solicitor Gabriel Toolan, Mr Leech seeks various order and declarations including an order quashing the Council's decision to grant development consent to carry out various works at the building at Dillonsland, Navan.

He also seeks declarations including that the Council had erred in law in its assessment of the proposed development for the purpose of complying with the EU directive on Habitats.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan who adjourned the case to a date in December.