Couple cannot pursue 30-year-old planning case, Supreme Court rules

Owners of Clare Manor Hotel allege corruption in refusal to grant planning for housing

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, with Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, dismissed Clare Manor’s appeal against the High Court ruling. Credit: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, with Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, dismissed Clare Manor’s appeal against the High Court ruling. Credit: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a couple who believe they were victims of planning corruption cannot sue Dublin City Council because a delay in taking the case would make a fair trial almost impossible.

Clare Manor Hotel Ltd, owned by Gerald and Marie Bresnan, asked the Supreme Court to be allowed pursue a planning case against Dublin City Council begun in 1999, even though the time allowed for taking such actions has elapsed.

They had waited for the outcome of an 11-year tribunal investigation into planning corruption in north Dublin before proceeding with the case, which Clare Manor initiated in October 1999. The company was challenging a High Court decision not let the action proceed.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, with Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, dismissed Clare Manor’s appeal against the High Court ruling.

“It seems to me that the overriding factor to be taken into account is the sheer unlikelihood that a fair trial could be held after a lapse of time of this magnitude,” Ms Justice O’Malley said.

Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission in 1987 to Clare Manor Hotel Ltd to build about 100 houses on land in Balgriffin where a hotel they had owned had burned down.

Building firm

However, in 1990 the council allowed Gannon Homes permission to build 720 houses, 250 of them on the Clare Manor site, after the company had sold the land to the building firm for £650,000.

The Bresnans sold after a draft development plan for Dublin proposed rezoning the area for agriculture, which would have seriously reduced the property’s value.

Dublin City Council maintains that it refused Clare Manor planning permission because the company made no provision for extra infrastructure such as sewerage, drains and roads.

Gannon Homes had proposed to invest in sewerage and water mains at the site, to contribute to improvements for the Santry Valley sewer and to extend an existing road leading into the area.

Clare Manor referred the issue to the Flood – later the Mahon – tribunal in the 1990s following revelations about planning corruption in north Dublin. Tribunal staff informed Mr Bresnan that the issue would be investigated.

Tribunal’s outcome

The couple decided to wait for the tribunal’s outcome before pursuing the case. The Bresnans maintain that Dublin City Council had been aware of this from the point at which Clare Manor began proceedings.

However, it was not until September 2010 that the tribunal told Clare Manor’s legal team that it had considered the Bresnans’ submissions but would not pursue the matter as it was outside the investigation’s terms of reference.

While the court accepted that Clare Manor believed the tribunal would investigate its claim, Ms Justice O’Malley described the delay in taking the legal action as inordinate and inexcusable.