Council must take over estate in landmark court ruling
Published 22/07/2016 | 02:30
A group of West Clare residents have secured a major victory as part of a landmark High Court ruling, which orders Clare County Council to publicly take in charge all of their estate including its troublesome wastewater treatment plant.
This Judicial Review, which is the believed to be first of its kind in the country, will have major financial implications for all local authorities and Irish Water, according to Kilfenora civil engineer Mick Duffy, who made a number of submissions to various bodies on behalf of residents.
Mr Duffy told the Clare Champion a planning permission for any development lasts five years and the council has another seven years to enforce planning conditions.
"The local authority have 12 years to ensure developments are in compliance with planning. If any local authority hasn't done anything in this 12-year period, it has to take an estate in charge in the event the majority of residents hold a plebiscite requesting this course of action," he said.
He estimates it may cost Irish Water, who had taken over the wastewater treatment plant on a temporary basis from the council, €500,000 to implement a permanent solution to replace the underground wastewater pipes and the treatment plant.
Andrew O'Donoghue, who took the High Court case on behalf of Westpark residents in Spanish Point, said he is delighted to secure this ruling, as it also clarifies the existing legislation.
"Local authorities can't abdicate its responsibilities towards people who own houses. If you buy a house, you expect the council to comply with its legal obligations in relation to planning enforcement," he said.
In his judgement, Justice Max Barrett stated this case affords another example of the difficulties that continue to present as a result of our turn-of-the-century national economic 'boom and bust'.
The housing development was built by Spanish Point Homes, which nominated James Joseph Burke and Patrick Joseph Egan as directors of a management organisation, Breaffy Management Company.
A few years ago, these two directors stepped down and the management company effectively ceased to exist after this.
Clare County Council senior executive planner, Brian McCarthy said the primary issue in this case related to the wastewater treatment facility at the Westpark housing development in Spanish Point.
In October 2015, the council put a recommendation before the councillors for the taking in charge of all public infrastructure including roads, footpaths public lighting and open spaces with the exception of the waste water treatment plant.
At that time councillors decided to defer approval to the taking in charge pending the outcome of the High Court case.
This ruling, which now compels the council to take over the estate, brings to a successful conclusion a long running campaign by residents to get the council to takeover their estate.