An insurance consultant and a retired bank official claim a High Court damages case brought against them by one of the largest developers in the State is designed to intimidate.
Pat Lynch and Denise Leavy want Glenveagh Homes Limited’s case dismissed as an abuse of process and bound to fail.
In a highly contested case, Glenveagh Homes alleges they have unlawfully abused the statutory planning process to interfere with its business with the “predominant purpose of leveraging an improved bargain” for Mr Lynch in his attempt to obtain more advantageous terms in selling 16 acres of his Co Meath development land to the firm. This is strongly denied by the defendants.
The case seeks substantial damages and orders preventing the pair from making observations on certain applications by the developer.
Glenveagh’s chief executive, Stephen Garvey, said the proceedings concern a “business dispute”, which the defendants have wrongly characterised as being of a strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) nature.
It is not based on instances of the pair making submissions in their own names but allege their observations were made under “fictitious aliases” and were “highly targeted” at Glenveagh’s developments, he said in an affidavit.
Mr Garvey alleged an estate agent approached Glenveagh asking it to purchase Mr Lynch’s lands at Clonmagadden, Navan, for a price “well in excess of open market value”. The developer refused to buy the site but later met Mr Lynch in an attempt to negotiate a sale, following which an agreement in principle was reached for a price of €7.8 million, Mr Garvey added.
Around the time Glenveagh was refusing to pay over and above market value, planning observations began to be lodged in the name of Denis Leavy, D Leavy and DM Leavy, he said.
From March 2021 to June 2023, Mr Garvey said, the “fictional/contrived pseudonyms”, and later Mr Lynch, filed 17 observations and five appeals on planning applications. The defendants have objected to 35 per cent of 49 Glenveagh planning applications, most of which are outside the defendants’ locality, he alleged.
Mr Garvey claimed a “campaign of tortious interference” by Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy, both of Batterstown, Proudstown, Navan, Co Meath, has led to “considerable, unexpected difficulty” with the delivery of Glenveagh residential schemes in counties Meath, Dublin, Louth, Westmeath, Kildare and Waterford, he said.
The firm engaged with the defendants in an attempt to stop the planning submissions, but they “continue to be a nuisance to our business costing millions of euros”, Mr Garvey continued, putting the figure at more than €8 million.
In sworn statements, Mr Lynch, an insurance consultant, and Ms Leavy, a retired banking official, said the proceedings amount to SLAPP with the express aim of securing withdrawals of certain appeals to An Bord Pleanála and preventing the defendants from exercising their rights of public participation in the planning process.
Mr Lynch “wholly rejected” the “entirely groundless” claim that he and Ms Leavy have unlawfully abused their right to public participation. His interactions with the company alerted him to the way it does business, which he did not like. He said he believed some of their planning applications were not satisfactory and would be unsustainable if built.
The objections were made in accordance with the planning acts and regulations with “no vexatious intent”, he added.
He denied estate agents approached Glenveagh on his behalf and said it was the developer who approached him regarding the site. The developer changed the terms of an agreement in principles, including requesting him to withdraw all planning observations and appeals and to agree never to make further submissions in relation to Glenveagh lands, he alleged.
On behalf of both defendants, Mr Lynch said Glenveagh seeks what amounts to a permanent injunction restraining them from making any submissions or appealing any decisions on Glenveagh planning applications relating to a list of sites.
In seeking damages, Glenveagh’s action is calculated to bully and intimidate and engages the Aarhus Convention whereby Ireland is required to ensure people exercising their rights under convention shall not be penalised, persecuted or harassed, he added.
Ms Leavy said she owns one acre of land near Mr Lynch’s and the price offered by Glenveagh for the lands was acceptable but negotiations broke down.
She denied submissions or appeals were used to negotiate a higher price for their land and took “grave exception” to the claim she used a false identity. The names are not pseudonyms but are her own name, which Glenveagh is “well aware” of, having negotiated to buy her land, she said.
She accused the developer of making “baseless accusations” and omitting facts that do not suit its narrative.
Their senior counsel, Stephen Dodd, instructed by FP Logue Solicitors, told the court this week that his clients intend to bring a counterclaim and a motion to dismiss the action against them as bound to fail and an abuse of process.
Kevin Bell BL, instructed by AMOSS, said his client, Glenveagh, wants the dismissal motion heard alongside the main trial of the case, rather than before.
Mr Dodd said some legal fees could be saved if his motions are heard before the substantive case.
Mr Justice Richard Humphreys adjourned the matter to a later date.