Judge orders men to remove mobile homes in ‘unauthorised development’ case

March 8, 2021

TWO MEN have been given until July to remove two mobile homes from a site in Letterkenny.

Desmond Morrison and Noel Clarke were before Letterkenny District Court over an unauthorised development at Glebe, Ramelton Road, Letterkenny.

Mr John McFeely, an executive planner with Donegal County Council, said he inspected the site in question in October 2018.

He found two mobile homes on the site and identified two men as Mr Morrison and Mr Clarke.

Mr Morrison told Mr McFeely that he was ‘fixing up’ one of the mobile homes and had the intention of repairing the dwelling house on the property.

The court heard that the dwelling, which has fallen into a state of disrepair, is Mr Morrison’s family home.

Mr Clarke told the Council official that he was a resident on the site.

Mr McFeely said he noticed a hose running from a tap at the rear of the house going to one of the mobile ones while and electrical generator was also on the site.

The site was disused and vacant from 2011-2013, which was shown by digital glow photography.

Mr McFeely contested that there was a material change of use to the property. There was no planning permission and it was not an exempted development, he said.

A warning letter was issued, but there was no removal of the mobile homes and the local authority issued an enforcement notice.

The notice was served on Mr Morrison by Mr McFeely on February 8, 2019.

A second notice was served on Mr Clarke by way of fixing it to a window on one of the mobile homes.

A subsequent site visit in September 2018 by Mr Feely saw two mobile homes still present while there were also two vehicles on the site.

Solicitor for Mr Morrison, Ms Maureen Crawford-Gallagher, said her client was to make an application for retention and engaged an architect, who had been unable to carry out a site visit due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We are trying to regularise these matters,” Ms Crawford-Gallagher told the Court.

“My client could be made homeless.”

Mr McFeely said it was his belief that Mr Morrison was the owner of the site and that Mr Clarke was a resident there.

Solicitor for Mr Clarke, Mr Patsy Gallagher, said that his client ‘in the best case scenario can be described as a tenant’.

Mr Feely said that an enforcement order can be issued to an occupier or an owner.

Simon Harron, an executive planner with Donegal County Council, said he viewed the site from a neighbouring property in June 2020.

He took three photographs, which showed a tank sitting on a concrete plinth, which he believed to be an overground septic tank.

“That’s an oil tank,” Mr Gallagher argued.

Mr Harron said that while the tank appeared unconventional, septic tanks could come in such forms.

Judge Paul Kelly dismissed a charge relating to the septic tank, but said that the facts were proved in relation to Section 154 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

Ms Crawford-Gallagher said Mr Morrison was a 73-year-old pensioner with health issues.

“He has nowhere else to live,” she said. “The mobile home was placed there at his family home by friends. If he is removed from the property, he will have nowhere else to live.”

She said that Mr Clarke was not a tenant.

Mr Gallagher said Mr Clarke was a single man ‘with substantial health issues’.

“He is on social welfare and has little means,” he said.

Mr Kevin McElhinney, solicitor for Donegal County Council, said the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Scheme was available to both men, but they didn’t take it up.

“We have received numerous complaints about unauthorised development here,” he said, asking Judge Kelly to have the men removed in a period of four to six weeks.

After Ms Crawford-Gallagher asked for a longer period due to Covid-19 restrictions,  Judge Kelly gave the pair until July 6 to vacate the site and ordered that each man pay €500 towards cost, giving them six months to pay.