Lord Waterford has asked the High Court to order Coillte to hand over the 1,900-acre (767-hectare) Curraghmore demesne in Co Waterford for allegedly allowing the estate to fall into serious disrepair in breach of the terms of its lease.
It is claimed the Curraghmore lands are valued at €7.75 million, and the cost of repair works to the estate's walls and roads, which Coillte has allegedly persistently failed to do under the lease, amounts to €10.5 million.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday granted an application by Curraghmore Estates, of which Lord Waterford is a director, to enter proceedings against Coillte Teo into the list of the Commercial Court, the commercial division of the High Court.
In the action, Curraghmore is seeking an order for possession of the Curraghmore demesne, described by Lord Waterford as significant both in terms of its architectural heritage and its ecology. Part of the lands form a candidate special area of conservation and a proposed national heritage area.
In an affidavit, Lord Waterford, of Curraghmore, Portlaw, said the Curraghmore lands were the subject of a 150-year lease made on November
15th, 1933, between John Charles de la Poer, the seventh marquis of Waterford, and the minister for agriculture.
Curraghmore Estates was the successor to the seventh marquis and, under the Forestry Act 1988, the benefit of the lease became vested in Coillte from January 1st, 1989.
He said under the lease Coillte was required to maintain and repair all walls, ditches, drains, roads and pathways on the estate but, in persistent breach of the lease, had failed to do so.
As a result, the estate walls had fallen into considerable disrepair. This was "a serious matter" as the estate walls were an integral part of the estate and contributed significantly to its architectural importance.
He said correspondence between Curraghmore Estates and Coillte from 1989 about its repairing obligations demonstrated continuing difficulties in trying to get Coillte to comply with its obligations. Promises to carry out repairs were made but not honoured.
He had secured legal advice in September 2004 and engaged a firm of consulting engineers to report on the conditions of the walls and roads. The engineers' report concluded there was very extensive damage to the internal and external walls and to the roads. The overall repair costs were estimated €10.5 million.
He said Coillte was given the report on January 14th, 2005, but failed to carry out the works specified. A forfeiture notice was served on April 21st, 2005, which required Coillte to remedy the breaches of lease within 20 months. While some remedial work were carried out, this was "limited" and "substandard". The proceedings to recover the lands were initiated.
© 2007 The Irish Times