Tuesday 28 February 2017

Morrison wins right to take on council in privacy case

Tim Healy

MICHELLE Morrison, the wife of singer Van Morrison, was yesterday given the green light to take legal action against her local council in a row over privacy.

But a judge repeated a previous warning that the case was going to cost someone "an awful lot of money".

Mrs Morrison, nee Rocca, of Kilross House, Sorrento Road, Dalkey, Co Dublin, got High Court permission to challenge the alleged failure of the council to protect her family's privacy when giving planning permissions for a neighbour's house.

She sought leave to overturn a decision by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council that her neighbours -- Desmond and Mary Kavanagh, of neighbouring Mount Alverno -- complied fully with planning permission granted for work on their home.

In her action, Mrs Morrison claims the landscaping proposed for Mount Alverno will cause significant overlooking of her family's property. She also claimed that her neighbours carried out works without the necessary planning permission and the council ignored changes they made.

Ms Morrison's counsel described their home as a 7,500sq-ft "Celtic-Tiger-type house".

Yesterday, Mr Justice Michael Hanna said he was satisfied that Mrs Morrison had established substantial grounds to bring High Court judicial review proceedings against the council with the Kavanaghs as notice parties.

However, the judge said he wanted to reiterate comments he made during an earlier six-day hearing on the matter that his advice concerning the ultimate costs of this case were now more stark and relevant than ever, given that a full hearing was likely to take even longer than application for permission to challenge.

On a number of occasions during the hearing in June the judge granted adjournments to allow talks to take place.

Without proper landscaping, and in particular the replacement of a number of trees, a "gangway" style balcony in the Kavanaghs' home clearly overlooks Mrs Morrison's rear garden, while a large number of first-floor windows in Mount Alverno also intrude on her family's privacy, it was claimed.

Her driveway and front living room have already been exposed as a result of works to the entrance of Mount Alverno, which she says were also not done in compliance with planning permission and involved the removal of a tree, which was supposed to have been retained, it was claimed.

Screening

The court heard that the Kavanaghs proposed providing replacement screening between the properties with shrubs, while Mrs Morrison's experts say that semi-mature canopy trees are needed to match those that have already been removed.

In his judgment yesterday, which only dealt with whether Mrs Morrison had grounds to take judicial review proceedings, the judge said there was a substantial conflict between the parties as to the relevant factual aspects of the case, including the precise date on which trees were felled.

Although Mrs Morrison brought her High Court application on the last day on which she would have been permitted to do so, it was nonetheless brought within time, the judge said.

Given there was a significant prior history of engagement by her in the planning process, he said he saw no merit in her neighbours' point about "last day" issue.

He was of the view that the work on Mrs Morrison's neighbours' property clearly affects or has the potential to affect her enjoyment and amenity of her home.

He could not agree with the council's argument that failure to comply with a pre-commencement condition of a planning permission did not render a development unlawful and was not of itself fatal to a planning decision.

Mrs Morrison was not in court yesterday.

Irish Independent

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