Saturday 21 April 2018

Housing estate built on bog should be levelled, owners believe

Tim Healy

AN entire housing estate which suffers from subsidence because it was built on a bog should be levelled, most of its owners said today.

‘Radharc An Seascan’ is a 15-house estate at Meenmore, overlooking scenic Dungloe Bay in Donegal.

It was largely completed in 2007/8 and sold mostly to people for holiday homes and investments.

The insurance company for the Donegal-based engineers/architects employed on the project, who are being sued by the owners, have accepted liability and the case is before the High Court for assessment of damages.

It has been referred to locally as the "Titanic site", the builder told the court.

Within a year of the completion of the estate, the entire site suffered serious subsidence because it was built on a peat bog, Desmond Murphy SC for 13 of the house owners, told the court.

The owners say the subsidence caused water pipes in the houses to brake, damaged central heating and drainage/sewage systems, caused steps and ramps to detach from walls and tarmac to sink.

Some of the owners used the houses to holiday in, while some rented them out, until the subsidence problems made them uninhabitable, the court heard.

Today, the houses have become an attraction for anti-social behaviour and illegal dumping, the owners say. They have also been subjected to vandalism and thefts with the heating boilers from most of the houses stolen in October 2011.

Holes of up to one metre wide have appeared on the site posing a serious danger, particularly for children, the owners say.

The owners sued the builders, O'Kane Developments (Northwest) Ltd, and the engineers/architects, Damien McKay Ltd trading as Damien McKay, Drumany, Letterkenny and now in voluntary liquidation.

Liability for the problems has been accepted by the insurers for McKay and the matter is before Mr Justice Michael Peart for assessment of damages.

Richard Lyons SC, for two of the house owners, also wants the court to decide whether O'Kane's, which the court heard is now a dormant company, should also be subject to any order it makes.

The judge heard Aviva Insurance has a sum of €2m available under the policy taken out by the architects although this may not be enough to cover all the claims. This aspect of the case may have to be dealt with at another hearing.

Most of the owners, who had paid mainly between €155,000 and €190,000 for the houses, told the court they believed all the houses should be knocked because they could not be economically repaired.

One owner said she would like to see the estate restored to its "former glory" because it was a "beautiful estate of 15 houses in a lovely place" when it was first built.

Most also said they had either used life savings or taken out mortgages to fund the purchases and several were in arrears of more than €20,000 with no income coming in because the houses are unrentable.

Several told the judge the entire affair had been a nightmare which has caused them enormous financial and emotional stress.

One of the purchasers is also a director of the building company, O'Kanes, who is also suing for compensation.

Paul O'Kane told the court his company was now dormant and even though he was not responsible for what had happened, his reputation had been ruined because he was associated with it. Someone locally had called it the "Titanic site," he said.

He realised there were problems when tarmac on the site started dropping and the engineer, Mr McKay, told him remedial work would solve that, Mr O'Kane said. It was only when he (O'Kane) got his own engineer in to do a report that the full extent of the problems realised and Mr McKay then "cut all ties" with him, he said.

Michael Briggs, director of a company, Gatewood Developments, which bought two of the houses and now owes €330,000 in outstanding mortgages, said he was concerned that the insurance company's liability was only €2m when it had been estimated the cost of repairing the estate was €3m.

The case will be mentioned today (Thurs) when the judge is expected to reserve his decision.

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News