Supreme Court orders demolition of 'family home'

If they hold out for a while longer, maybe they’ll benefit from an amnesty. … -1.3536499

If our planning laws were enforcd normally, this would be a sensible suggestion. Why have old planning infractions hanging over the title? But then you look at Meath :frowning:

Agreed, egregious infractions shouldn’t benefit from breaking the law.

Not like the law society to piss money away is it?!

The family wrote to Councillors on 05 June 2018

***Dear Councillors,
We are the owners of the house which is the subject matter of the above proceedings where we have lived at Faughan Hill, Bohermeen, Navan since 2006.

Appeal to Councillors to intervene.*
As a matter of urgency, we are writing to all the Councillors to appeal to them to intervene on our behalf, in relation to a long running planning dispute between us and the County Council.

The High Court made an order in 2010 which was affirmed by the Supreme Court on the 9th May 2017 last, directing us at our own expense, to demolish our home at Bohermeen, Navan, Co. Meath. We were ordered to return the entirety thereof, to its original agricultural state. Bank of Ireland in has a judgment mortgages on all our property.

In order to comply with the Court Order it is estimated that the cost of demolition obtained from 3 separate quotations and on being reviewed by a Chartered Quantity Surveyor will cost in excess of €300,000 to €326,000 plus VAT. The Order made by the Courts has expired and we are now at risk of being referred back to the High Court to compel us to demolish or face being held in contempt of Court. Quite separately there is an order that the legal costs of Meath County Council in respect of the Court proceedings brought against us in their entirety be discharged by us.
Meath County Council as the planning authority; now has the option in its own discretion, as mandated by the County Council, to bring an application to court to apply for us to be held in contempt of court and seek to compel us to carry out the order which they obtained for us to demolish our home.

We are a family of six consisting of Chris Murray, Rose Murray; three young children aged 12, 17, and 18 and Mrs. Murray’s mother who is 80 years of age in July.
Our position is that we simply do not have the funds available to pay for the demolition and do so by raising; upwards of €326,000 plus VAT plus costs for removal, storage, rental accommodation. Naturally on the demolition of our house we will become homeless.

Background History
After numerous attempts to obtain planning permission in relation to three separate pieces of land, which we bought in turn two of which we then had to sell over time, we were turned down on each occasion in relation to our planning applications.

On our third attempt, this time in relation to the plot of land the subject matter of the above case we took no chances. We made sure to check with planning officials before we bought the land to see if we stood a reasonable chance of obtaining planning permission to build thereon. We were told by go ahead by that official and a local politician as the indications for grant of planning were favourable and on the strength of their assurance we went ahead and bought the land. The land was only for sale in one lot and it was known locally that a number of developers were very interested in it even though it was in an agriculturally zoned area. In order to be sure of acquiring the land we had to pay over the odds and buy it prior to auction. The extraordinary thing was that with the two other pieces of land on which, we had previously bought and applied for planning and were refused, we had to sell these as a result. In respect of both of those sites the people who bought from us, had no problem getting planning.

So we thought maybe on our third attempt this time with the benefit of advice from the local official planners we might get permission. Unbelievably our application however, was turned down. We made had a fairly standard application for a dormer bungalow. But still our planning which refused.

Out of sheer total frustration and desperation, without lodging an appeal against the last refusal, we decided to go ahead and build a house on the land. What was built was larger in proportion to the property for which we had applied and were refused planning permission. We felt at the time this would not have made any difference in any event.

The consequences of our actions
That was back in 2006. We soon discovered that we had made a life changing mistake and one we would deeply regret every day since, for the next 12 years. We accept fully that what we did was both arrogant and stupid. We accept that the planning authority is entirely within its rights and obligations to robustly defend and vigorously enforce the planning laws. We had rather naively believed that if the house was in place, given the history of numerous applications that we had made, at huge expense, we felt with our third application on our third plot of land, that Meath County Council would eventually reluctantly agree to allow us retain our home on the land.

When we were building the house, nobody from the Council came near us. It was only when a person who was not a local person, queried the matter with the Council that a planning official called out to investigate and this set in motion a prosecution under the planning acts against us.

Efforts to resolve the matter.
Ever since then, we have lived every day with the nightmare and stress of knowing that at some point the Council could force us to demolish our home. From the moment we made the fatal error of constructing our home without planning permission, we have done everything possible in our power to try and rectify the situation. We have lived with this problem for the past twelve years. We tried at first instance and on appeal to obtain retention; we offered to demolish two out-buildings and a conservatory, to reduce the size. On a separate application to address conditions for refusal of retention raised, we replaced a septic tank with a state of the art treatment system. On a further proposal we offered to demolish almost half the house again in the context of a retention application.

All of these proposals were spurned and rejected out of hand by the Council and by An Bord Pleanala in the context our retention applications. It is understandable that the Council feels it is obliged to strictly apply the planning laws and in that context therefore the only remedy that we understand was sought in Court by the Council, was for complete demolition and the return of the lands entirely to its original agricultural state. That being the remedy sought and argued for by the Council the Courts had no other option but to issue the Orders applied for by the Council and the Court made the order to enforce a demolition order under the planning act.

The practical solution and our proposal now
At this point we wish to state that we are prepared to do anything whatsoever that the Council requires of us, if only the Council will agree to allow us to remain in our home. Our house is not intrusive in any way, it is up a quiet laneway well in off the road. No one locally is complaining. In fact quite the opposite, all our neighbours are supporting us in our efforts to save our home. So other than the query raised in 2006 by a person not living in the immediate area no one has said anything against our house. The house itself is not in a prominent location. There are a huge number of people locally who have agreed to offer their support to us. At an estimated demolition cost of up to €326,000 plus vat, we simply cannot afford to demolish the house and yet, although under court order we are legally obliged to do that, we cannot afford to do so.
We have no way of raising money to demolish our house. We do however believe that if we are allowed to remain in our home we can use it as security for people who have offered to support us and other third parties could on the security of the house advance monies to us, to allow us to discharge the legal costs and indeed ascertained additional expenses of Meath County Council planning department caused by our case. We are prepared that if the Councillors prevail upon the Council Chief Executive not to apply for us to be held in contempt of Court and allow us time, we sincerely believe we can with support referred to above, suffer whatever penalties and costs as should be deemed proportionate and appropriate but allow us to save our home.

We are asking all the Councillors or those of you, who are prepared to intervene on our behalf, to support and put a Motion before the Council, calling on the Council and its Chief Executive and Head of Planning not to issue any Court application and allow us raise the funds to discharge the Councils costs and their expenses. And yes, let it be seen, that whatever the financial outcome maybe, it is an appropriate and proportionate penalty for what we have done. The Council could ascertain what costs and expenses it has incurred as a result of what we did. Once the amount is determined we can within an agreed time frame, then work to reach the target figure set and yes, if we fail to pay up, then we will accept the full consequences that the Council can apply to Court to hold us in contempt and carry out the demolition order.

The legal position
We have been legally advised; that we have no legal remedies whatsoever open to us any longer. If a motion for contempt of court is issued, then it is all over for us, at that point it will be too late. The presiding judge will have no option but to enforce the order for contempt in its precise terms. If a Court motion is issued then the matter is then too late. In practical terms at that point it would mean that the Council would have to step in and at its own ratepayers expense demolish the house without any realistic prospect of recovery of its legal costs and other expenses.

We do not have any expectations whatsoever that for our impetuous actions we should go unpunished. We accept fully that what we did was wrong in the first place and that people like us must be seen publicly, to be held to account as otherwise if no severe sanctions are seen to be imposed enforcement of planning breaches would no longer be effective. We accept this fully and for this reason, we are asking to be allowed to make amends by, yes, being punished for what we did wrong and take the consequences that follow but, at the very least for the sake of our family not to make six of us homeless.

So if the Council does take action
We live every day with the horror that someday a crane with a wrecking ball could arrive up to our home and level it to the ground. We are imploring all of the County Councillors to intervene on our behalf.

If the Council does proceed with its application to hold us in contempt we do not have the money nor have we any way of raising the money to pay for the demolition. Attached hereto is a summary of the costs of the demolition. If our home is demolished, we will become homeless which would mean that whatever remaining resources we have and can salvage, we can sell to help pay for alternative accommodation. We are in debt to Bank of Ireland anyway so any other lands we have are fully charged and we expect that the Bank knowing we are put out of our home, will simply sell whatever properties they hold. We would expect to have to apply for bankruptcy.

The solution respectfully proposed.
With the utmost respect of the Court and to the Council we do not wish to be seen to be either in contempt, or uncooperative. But in totally practical terms, if we are forced to leave our home and the Council then goes ahead with demolition, it will find itself in the situation that at its own rate-payers expense, it will be demolishing the house, at a cost of in the region of €326,000 plus VAT. The accumulated legal costs of the council, due by us, which remain pending and unrecovered to date are somewhere in the region of €120,000 plus VAT. The separate legal costs already paid out by the Council for its own legal representation is currently unknown but is estimated at €80,000 plus vat. The amount paid out of ratepayers funds therefore would be estimated somewhere ultimately in the region well over €575,000 including VAT.

Whilst the planning authority must uphold the law and that is fully respected. The cost for the Council of “proving it’s point” that it will enforce the full rigour of law to its fullest possible extent, will, with the greatest respect at the end of the day create an unnecessary burden on hard earned rate payer’s funds.

We would respectfully submit that this is unnecessary. We can certainly be held up as a warning to others and on the one hand, be seen to be financially penalised and on the other, save the ratepayers of County Meath the consequences of having to underwrite in full, the costs and consequences of our wrongdoing. We are the ones who have done wrong here; the ratepayers of County Meath are potentially entirely innocent victims.

We are therefore appealing as a last resort to you Councillors, to appeal to the Chief Executive to find another way to deal with this. The Council if it proceeds, as we have suggested can achieve the dual objective, of severally punishing us for what we have done wrong, breaching the planning code as we did, yes the message will be received publically, loud and clear, that planning offenders will be prosecuted. Whilst at the same time the Council will recover all its costs so that the rate payers of County Meath are spared unnecessary expense.

Our request is to be allowed to put matters right, please allow us to do so and prevent our home, being demolished and save six people being made homeless.

Thank you for reading this letter.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Murray & Rose Murray**

What did they think was going to happen ?

And why do they think anybody should/might support them?

Well their recent letter explains:
We made sure to check with planning officials before we bought the land to see if we stood a reasonable chance of obtaining planning permission to build thereon. We were told by go ahead by that official and a local politician as the indications for grant of planning were favourable
It was only when a person who was not a local person, queried the matter with the Council that a planning official called out to investigate and this set in motion a prosecution

The builders should be heavily fined also. No builder should be allowed carry out works without planning permission

1 Like

“Without lodging an appeal against the last refusal, we decided to go ahead and build a house on the land.”

The only bit of that wall of text that matters…

Lots of questions, like

Reads like a misprint, but what does it mean?

That said, the upshot is

sounds like spin; presumably, they had another business/venture that went tits up and as a result Bank of Ireland got judgements over all their assets

presumably, you’d have to have a good income (if ephemeral) to justify (to yourself) building a huge gaff like that?

Because “Planning” is this country is a load of rubbish.

They provided housing for themselves.

So called “Planning” is scum rules made by a scum government.

I take it the house is still there and the Supreme Court has been ignored. :slight_smile:

Still there.
Who/What is preventing the Council from enforcing the planning laws?

Their letter to Councillors is very “disingenuous”.

They ignore the key to their case: the construction of two houses by the local farmer who agreed to “sterilise” the remaining land in order to get planning but who, as soon as the two houses were built, sold a site to a local family (the Murrays) who, despite years of frustration with planning in Meath, bought the site without legal advice, relying on the alleged assurances of an unnamed Council official and an unnamed County Councillor.

Who believes they naively bought this site relying on BS after years of wrangling with the Council?

No wonder the Murrays have the support of their neighbours 8) They sold the land to them!

If I were a Councillor, this letter would really piss me off. It’s basically saying (a) planning in Meath is so corrupt, it would be unfair to enforce the law and (b) the Council will be stuck with the legal costs for the Murrays’ futile efforts to circumvent the system with court approval.

Of course, it comes down to political will. Who wants to tell the media why this house is being demolished during a housing crisis?

Respect for the law won’t persuade Irish people that drastic measures are needed. Especially if people believe the system is, in fact, corrupt. :imp:

So has this been demolished yet?

We’ll hear all about it it it ever happens but I think this house should become a national monument to corruption and anarchy.

Having spent millions pursuing the case, Meath County Council won’t take action. Local elections coming up.
The High Court won’t embarrass itself by enquiring about the order it made 8 years ago directing this couple to knock down their own house.

Did the courts make any order as to costs?

I’m guessing this house is still there?

A COUPLE have agreed to leave a house they built in breach of the planning laws in two years’ time.

The property, located outside Navan in Co Meath, was built by plumber Michael Murray, aka Chris Murray, and his wife Rose 14 years ago. It will be demolished after they leave their home in September 2022.

I don’t expect they will.

After 14 years why are they getting another 2?