Buncrana business owners who carried out a ‘colossal’ amount of work to their garden without getting planning permission have been ordered to cough up more than 2,000 euro in court costs.
At Buncrana Town Court , sitting on Tuesday, district Judge Paul Kelly heard how proprietors of James E Hegarty on the Main Street - Matthew and Stephen Gleeson – carried out work to the rear of the property without initially obtaining planning approval.
The court heard how the proceedings – which started back in 2008 when enforcement notices were served – had been brought before the court on 16 occasions.
Prosecturing solicitor Lisa Finnegan told Judge Kelly the owners had removed a fence and constructed a wall and timber fence over it.
Defence solicitor Ciaran MacLochlainn told Judge Kelly that his clients had intended putting a car park in and around the area but had to elevate the garden which was slopping, first.
He said a local architect had advised them that because of the ‘levels and height’ they did not require planning permission. He said it was only when Buncrana Town Council became involved in the matter the Gleeson brothers were told they needed planning permission – “contrary to the advice they were given” said Mr MacLochlainn.
He added: “When the matter first came before the court I had the intention of defending the case that they didn’t require planning permission. But as the case went on it appeared to me that we did require planning permission despite the evidence of the architect who was in this court.
“ My clients decided rather than contest the matter they would make an application for planning permission that would satisfy the objector and Buncrana Town Council. The application for retention was drawn up and my clients embarked on quite a substantial amount of work. “
He said in total they’ve spend 23,416 euro remedying the situation. He told Judge Kelly his clients have no previous convictions and ‘not even so much as a parking ticket’.
But Judge Kelly said he failed to ‘understand that anybody would come to the conclusion that works of that nature could not have required some form of approval or consent’.
Mr MacLochlainn said the objectors had built an extension on the back of the house, at the time, cut down trees and erected a window.
But Judge Kelly said: “My point is that the impact on the neighbour is colossal and the purpose of planning regulations is to give neighbours, and people affected by work, a voice.
“This is a very substantial amount of work I can see a certain amount of basis for the defendants belief that the work didn’t require planning permission. I would have thought common sense would have indicated that works of that scale should certainly cause them to ask questions, The result is an enforcement action in 2008.”
But Judge Kelly said he also accepted the defendants had put in a substantial amount of time and cost rectifying the situation but it was ‘entirely their own actions in the first place and they brought it on themselves’.
Judge Kelly ordered the company, James E Hegarty, to pay a fine of 500 euro, four months to pay and ordered the company to pay costs of 2,000 euro plus VAT and fees which amounted to 2,500.96.