Wednesday 22 October 2014

Sinn Fein councillor tries to prevent his eviction in attic conversion row

Ray Managh

Published 06/06/2014 | 15:11

Councillor John Brady
Councillor John Brady

A recently elected County Councillor and his wife have launched a High Court action aimed at preventing Wicklow Co Council from evicting their family from their home in a row over an attic conversion.

The action has been brought by Sinn Fein's John Brady, who was elected to Wicklow County Council after topping the poll in the Bray electoral area in last month's local elections, and his wife Gayle.

Last March the Bradys were served with a notice to quit their home at 63 Kilbride Grove, Bray, Co Wicklow, where they and their five children have lived for the last 14 years.

The High Court was told today that Bray Town Council, which was recently abolished and merged into Wicklow Co Council, issued the notice to quit against the Bradys because the council claimed the attic conversion breached building regulations and posed a fire risk.

The Bradys reject the claim. In a sworn statement to the Court Mr Brady, who was a member of Bray Town Council for almost a decade before its abolition, said he believed the Council's action against him was "motivated by personal animosity of Council Officials towards me."

The Bradys’ barrister Cormac Ó Dúlacháin SC said that Mr Brady in his capacity as a councillor had been in dispute with the local authority over a number of issues including the death of two firefighters in Bray in 2007, and his support of a sitdown protest as organised by a number of homeless women at Bray Town Council's offices.

Counsel said that in July 2013 a council inspector conducted "a three or four-minute inspection" of the Brady's home.  Arising out of that they received a letter from the council saying the converted attic posed a fire risk.

The Bradys, who deny the attic poses a fire risk, were told to apply to the council for retention of the work or restore the house to its original condition.

The council also stated that any application the Bradys made for retention of works had to be accompanied with a fire professional's report. That professional, the Bradys were told, must have minimum of €6.5m indemnity insurance.  The Bradys were also told to remove the stairs leading up to the attic.

The Bradys say they applied and got permission from the local authority to convert the attic. Counsel said that the houses in the estate the Brady live in were specifically designed to accommodate attics to be converted to additional living space.

Arising out of the council's inspection, the Bradys engaged a consultant engineer and an architect to deal with matters. They were not able to do the work as neither  had the level of indemnity insurance sought by the Council. 

The Bradys did not remove the stairs but did carry out works including upgrading the attic door to a firedoor and conducted fire safety improvements on the ground floor. Last March the Council served them with a notice to quit, counsel said.

In their action against Wicklow Co Council the Bradys are seeking orders quashing the Council's decision to terminate their tenancy. They are also seeking declarations from the court that the Council's decision is irrational, unreasonable, disproportionate, unlawful and was made in bad faith.

They also seek a declaration that the decision breaches their Constitutional Rights and Rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They are also seeking an injunction preventing the Council from taking steps to recover possession of their home. They further seek damages and aggravated damages.

Permission to bring the action was granted , on an ex-parte basis, by Judge Bronagh O'Hanlon. The Judge made the action returnable to June 23.

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