Meath County Council v Murray

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeMr. Justice William M. McKechnie
Judgment Date19 May 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IESC 25
Date19 May 2017
Docket Number[Appeal No. 127/2011],[S.C. No. 127 of 2011]

[2017] IESC 25

THE SUPREME COURT

McKechnie J.

Denham C.J.

O'Donnell Donal J.

McKechnie J.

Laffoy J.

Dunne J.

[Appeal No. 127/2011]

IN THE MATTER OF SECTION 160 OF THE PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT ACT 2000, AS AMENDED

Between /
THE COUNTY COUNCIL OF THE COUNTY OF MEATH
Applicant/Respondent
-and-
MICHAEL MURRAY

and

ROSE MURRAY
Respondents/Appellants

Planning and development – Constitutional rights – Statutory injunction – Appellants seeking to appeal against statutory injunction – Whether High Court judge erred in not considering the constitutional rights of the appellants

Facts: The respondents/appellants, Mr and Mrs Murray, in 2006, purchased a land holding at Faughan Hill, Bohermeen, Navan, on which they proposed to build a family home for themselves and their three children. A planning application for such a construction was refused in June of that year. Within the following six months, the Murrays constructed a dwelling house of double the size of that for which permission had been refused. They moved into the house in December, 2006. Having become aware of this development, the applicant/respondent, the County Council of Meath, threatened enforcement proceedings unless demolition took place. An application for retention was refused by both the Planning Authority and An Bord Pleanála in 2007. A further application for a slimmed down version of the construction was also refused by both bodies: the Planning Authority in October, 2008, and the Board in June, 2009. On an application for a statutory injunction under s. 160 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, Edwards J, on the 29th June, 2010, imposed an order that had the effect of prohibiting the appellants from carrying out any unauthorised development on the subject lands, and of requiring them to remove the dwelling house as constructed thereon and to restore the lands to their pre-development condition, which was one fit for agricultural use only. A stay of 24 months was placed on the execution of the order. The appellants appealed to the Supreme Court against that decision. Central to the appellants’ submissions was that the High Court judge erred in not considering the constitutional rights of the appellants and their children, such as the assurance of the dignity of the individual (per the Preamble to the Constitution), the protection of the person (Article 40.3), the inviolability of the dwelling (Article 40.5), the protection of family life (Article 41), the education and protection of children (Article 42) and the protection of private property (Article 43). The appellants referred in particular to the constitutional protection of the dwelling (DPP v Damache [2012] 2 IR 266).

Held by McKechnie J that, by the application of conventional principles, the decision of the judge could not be set aside on any of the grounds argued before the Court. McKechnie J held that this conclusion was entirely compatible with the Strasbourg jurisprudence, referring to Chapman v United Kingdom (Application no. 27238/95, judgment of the 18th January, 2001; (2001) 33 EHRR 18).

McKechnie J held that the order of the High Court should be upheld.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice William M. McKechnie delivered on the 19th day of May, 2017
Introduction:
1

This is an appeal from a decision of Edwards J., dated the 29th June, 2010, given on an application for a statutory injunction under section 160 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended (‘the 2000 Act’), whereby he granted the reliefs prayed for by Meath County Council as the Planning Authority for the area in question. The resulting order, which reflected his judgment, has the effect of prohibiting the respondents (the appellants on this appeal) from carrying out any unauthorised development on the subject lands, and of requiring them to remove the dwelling house as constructed thereon and to restore the lands to their pre-development condition, which was one fit for agricultural use only. A stay of 24 months was placed on the execution of the order. The order so made can readily be positioned by a further word as to the circumstances.

2

In 2006, the appellants purchased a land holding at Faughan Hill, Bohermeen, Navan, on which they proposed to build a family home for themselves and their three children. A planning application for such a construction was refused in June of that year. Within the following six months, the Murrays constructed a dwelling house of double the size of that for which permission had been refused. They moved into the house in December, 2006. Having become aware of this development, the respondent to this appeal (‘the Council’ or ‘the Planning Authority’) threatened enforcement proceedings unless demolition took place. An application for retention was refused by both the Planning Authority and An Bord Pleanála in 2007. A further application for a slimmed down version of the construction was also refused by both bodies: the Planning Authority in October, 2008, and the Board in June, 2009. Even allowing for the appellants' ‘frustration’ with the actions of Meath County Council, and notwithstanding their personal circumstances, the trial judge, having described the breach as ‘flagrant’ and stating that the appellants had ‘sought to drive a coach and four through the planning laws’, felt that the only appropriate order was that as above described. For the reasons which follow, the appellants have submitted that as a matter of law he was wrong to so do.

Background:
Land Ownership:
3

The subject site is part of a larger holding of about 25 acres comprised in Folio 14049, Register of Freeholders, Co. Meath, whose registered owners, at the date of the institution of these proceedings in June, 2007 were Michael Murtagh, John Murtagh and one Nora Drain. It would appear that either Mrs. Murray, or both she and her husband, acquired these lands sometime in 2006; this uncertainty flows from the fact that both situations are averred to in the affidavits. In any event, nothing turns of the formality of ownership. It is accepted by all that the Murrays have a sufficient interest in the lands to justify any and all planning applications as made by them.

Planning History - Murtaghs:
4

On the 7th July, 2005, notification of a grant of planning permission, under reference KA/ 40653, issued to one Orla Murtagh and one Karl Brady for the construction of a house on part of the original holding. A similar permission was granted on the 18th August, 2005, under reference KA/ 40669, to one Aoife Murtagh and one David Reilly, evidently on a different parcel of land but also from that holding.

5

Both permissions contained a common Condition, numbered 3 in each, which read as follows:-

‘Prior to commencement of the development the owner of the land holding of which the site forms part as shown outlined in blue on the location map submitted on [(in the case of KA/ 40653, the 22nd December, 2004, and in the case of KA/ 40669, the 23rd December, 2005)] shall have entered into a legal agreement with the planning authority under the provisions of Section 47 of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 2000, providing for the sterilisation from any housing or non-agricultural development on the entire remainder of this land holding.’

The location map by reference to which the sterilised lands were identified was identical for both permissions.

6

By letter dated the 20th April, 2005, Mr. John Murtagh, presumably on behalf of the then registered owners, wrote to the planning authority as follows:-

Re: File Reference No: KA/40653 – (Orla Murtagh and Karl Brady)

To whom it may concern,

I refer to the above planning application and hereby state that I am willing to enter into an agreement to sterilise the remainder of the land holding (excluding the site which relates to a current planning application by Aoife Murtagh and David Reilly – Reference No: KA/40669).’

A letter of the same date and in identical terms, save the necessary variation to reflect the different applicants, site and reference number, was sent by Mr. Murtagh in respect of Reference No. KA/ 40669. Evidently both letters were sent in the knowledge that such would be required should the permissions otherwise be granted.

7

For some reason, which has not been explained, formal agreements under section 47 of the 2000 Act were never entered into in respect of either planning permission. However, it would appear that the Planning Authority was satisfied with such letters, particularly having received Commencement Notices in respect of both developments, and in the knowledge that each has been completed.

Planning History – Murrays:
8

Prior to having carried out any development on the subject lands, the appellants, at least one of whom had a historical connection with the locality (see paras. 12 and 134, infra) applied to Meath County Council, as the planning authority, seeking permission to construct a dormer type dwelling house measuring in total 283 sq. metres (3,045 sq. ft) and to carry out associated works on an overall site of 0.7811 hectares. That application (Reference No. KA/60180) was refused by decision dated the 29th June, 2006, from which no appeal was taken.

9

Within a very narrow timeframe, the Murrays, having been notified of the above refusal, commenced and thereafter completely finished the construction of a dwelling house, with associated works, of about 588 sq. metres (6,329 sq. ft.) on a subject site of 1.675 hectares (4.139 acres). This structure, which Mr. and Mrs. Murray first occupied in December, 2006, was first discovered by the planning authority in February, 2007, as a result of a complaint by a member of the public. Following an inspection by its officials, Mr. Jimmy Young, a senior staff officer, wrote to the appellants on the 2nd March, 2007, referring to what he described as an...

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