Meath couple whose house was due to be demolished secure temporary reprieve – The Irish Times
A Co Meath couple whose home was built without planning permission and was scheduled to be demolished have secured a last-minute temporary reprieve from the High Court.
The 588sq m house at Faughan Hill, Bohermeen, Navan, was built by plumber Michael, aka Chris Murray, and his wife Rose more than 15 years ago.
Two years ago, following a lengthy legal battle with Meath County Council over the property, the couple agreed before the High Court to settle that action. As part of the settlement of proceeding, where it was alleged they were in contempt of a court order to demolish their home, they undertook to vacate the family home, and agreed it should be demolished by September 24th, 2022.
At the High Court on Friday the couple secured a temporary High Court injunction restraining the demolition of the property. The order was granted after their lawyer told the court new evidence has come to light that may ultimately help the couple retain the house.
The injunction was granted on an ex parte basis by Mr Justice Mark Heslin.
The judge said he was satisfied from the evidence put before the court that the Murrays had raised a fair issue that needed to be considered by the court.
The judge said he was further satisfied that the balance in justice favoured preserving the status quo, and making an order preventing the property’s demolition, for a temporary period.
The matter was adjourned and will next appear before the court in October.
Seeking the injunction, the Murrays claim new evidence has come to light in recent weeks that they wish to put before the courts.
The court heard the case centred around the purported making of a Section 47 order of the 2000 Planning and Development Act in respect of the lands where the house had been built. Such orders restrict any development on lands. This agreement had allegedly been between Meath County Council and the former owners of lands where the Murray’s property had been built, before they acquired the landholding.
The court heard the Murrays accepted they had been “absolutely wrong” to build a house without permission. The only way to address this was to apply for permission to retain their home. However, their applications had been refused because of the purported existence of the Section 47 order, the court heard.
The court heard that in the last six weeks new evidence had come to light, including information in other legal proceedings brought against An Bord Pleanála, over a decision regarding planning permission taken by a relation of the former owners.
The evidence suggests that no Section 47 order had been formally entered into in respect of the lands where the Murray’s built their home.
Another factor that the court was asked to take into account was that in 2020 a member of the Murray family was seriously ill.
At the time of the settlement they did not want to further engage in court proceedings and agreed to compromise the proceedings.
Arising out of the new evidence the Murrays have launched a fresh set of High Court proceedings, which if successful would ultimately see the order they agreed to in 2020 set aside.
In what was described as a long-running saga, Meath County Council brought proceedings against the couple over a decade ago claiming the property was an unauthorised development. In 2010 the High Court found in the council’s favour and ordered that the house be demolished.
The Murrays appealed the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court, which in 2017 upheld the lower court’s decision.
The council claimed in proceedings in 2019 that the Murrays failed to comply with the order to demolish their home and sought orders that could have resulted in their committal to prison for their alleged contempt of court. The couple had rejected the council’s claims.
They argued the contempt proceedings should be struck out on grounds including delay and due to the change in the family’s personal circumstances and their lack of resources.
In September 2020 Mr Justice Charles Meenan was told that following discussions between the sides the parties had reached an agreement.
The Murrays gave sworn undertakings to the court that they would depart and then allow the demolition of the house.
As part of the agreement the couple gave sworn undertakings to the court that these steps would be completed by an agreed date of September 24th, 2020.
The courts had previously heard that before building their house, the Murrays applied for permission for a 283.sq m dormer bungalow on part of that land.
That application was refused.
They did not appeal the council’s decision, which they claimed was an error and built a house nearly double that size without planning permission.
They subsequently applied for retention permission, which was also refused.
This resulted in the council bringing High Court proceedings against them.