The High Court has ordered the demolition within two years of the two-storey home of a couple and their three children in Co Meath built by them after Meath County Council refused planning permission for a house half its size.
Michael and Rose Murray, who have lived in the house at Faughan Hill, Bohermeen, near Navan, since December 2006, had pleaded against the demolition order.
With “very great regret”, Mr Justice John Edwards agreed with the council that the unauthorised development carried out by the couple was not a “minor infraction” but “a flagrant breach of the planning laws” which was “completely unjustified”.
“They have sought to drive a coach and four through the planning laws and that cannot be permitted no matter how frustrated they may have felt on account of earlier refusals,” he said.
While demolition would impose a great hardship especially as Mr Murray was now a victim of the general downturn in the building industry, the law “must be upheld”.
It was “simply preposterous for the couple to argue the house was a farm when it was “a very large and imposing stone clad two-storey dwelling house with a curved drive leading up to it and extensive laws in front of it”, he added.
On humanitarian grounds, and “in light of the particularly hard economic times we live in”, the judge said he would place a two-year stay on the demolition order.
In opposing the order, Mrs Rose Murray said after they were refused permission for several sites, she felt there was no prospect they would ever get permission. It was “in desperation” they decided to proceed and build the house and their only motive was to secure a safe and nice place in which to bring up their children.
In June 2006, the Council had refused Mr Murray permission for a house on the lands.
In February 2007, following a complaint from a member of the public, the council became aware a large house of some 588 square metres (6,229 sq feet) had been built on the lands and the Murrays were living there. The house was about twice the size of the dwelling for which the Council had refused permission.
In March 2007, the council wrote to Mr Murray stating the house had no planning permission and should be immediately demolished. On March 12th, Mr Murray applied for permission to retain an unauthorised development.
In May 2007, the council refused retention permission on grounds it would result in excessive density of development and excessive concentration of waste water treatment systems in an unserviced rural area, seriously injuring the visual amenities of the area and militating against preservation of the rural environment.
The council also said the two-storey dwelling was out of character with existing dwellings in terms of scale, height and design and represented “an unduly prominent and incongruous feature” in the local landscape.
Mr Murray appealed to An Bord Pleanála, which on June 5th 2009 dismissed the appeal and upheld the Council’s view of the development.
In opposing the application for demolition, Mr Murray said he had married on August 14th 1999 and was a native of the area. His family home was less than half a mile away from the house, and he and his wife were very involved in the local community.