Priest takes High Court challenge claiming Donegal hotel works have damaged environment

Fr John Moore and Save Our Beach at Castlegoland claim certain Lake House Hotel and Portnoo Golf Club works lack planning permission

A community group and a local Catholic priest have launched High Court proceedings where it is claimed works done on a hotel and nearby golf course have damaged an extremely environmentally sensitive and scenic part of Co Donegal.

In separate but related actions Save Our Beach at Castlegoland CLG and Fr John Moore, whose family home is close to the two properties, have claimed before the court that certain works, carried out in and around the Lake House Hotel and Portnoo Golf Club in west Donegal, lack planning permission.

They claim that certain works done on the properties have “devastated” the visual amenity, damaged the local ecology, and will cause a cycle of erosion that will have consequences for the local sand dune system.

The applicants also say that as part of what they alleged are related developments, access to the shore from roads leading past the hotel and golf course has been blocked.


Those routes, which form part of an alleged right of way, have been used by locals since “time immemorial”, the applicants claim.

The lands in question, it is claimed, form part of a designated “European site” and is a protected and environmentally sensitive, and highly scenic location.

In the first set of proceedings the applicants seek orders against businessmen brothers Liam and Paul McDevitt, who are directors of Knather Acquisitions Unlimited company, which it is alleged acquired a charge over the golf course, and now controls the property.

The proceedings are also against several individuals whom the applicants allege are trustees of the golf course.

The applicants claim that works were carried out on the course without planning permission, including the erection of 2m high screening berms, an access way through the berms, fencing, gates, and a water storage tank, and a tee box on part of the course.

An application was made on behalf of Mr Liam McDevitt to Donegal County Council for retention of those works, it is claimed.

It is claimed that most of what was sought to be retained in that application was rejected. The local authority had issued enforcement notices, requiring the parts which were not granted retention to be rectified, it is claimed.

The applicants claim that rectification works have not been done, and claim the failure to comply with planning laws is prejudicial to them and the public.

The structures erected without permission should be removed and the lands restored to their original condition, the applicants claim.

The applicants also claim that since Mr McDevitt and his company have taken control of the course there has been a “calculated, deliberate and systemic obstruction” of a public right of way that has prevented the public from accessing the beach.

It has been done “purely for commercial purposes”, they claim.

In that action the applicants seek various orders including ones requiring the removal of all unauthorised structures on lands at Narin and Portnoo golf course.

They also seek orders that all sand dunes and rights of way be reinstated to the state they were in before works on them commenced.

They further seek orders prohibiting the respondents from placing or maintaining any obstructions to public rights of way over the lands in question, and that all cameras and equipment monitoring the rights of way be removed.

In the second set of proceedings the applicants seek against the hotel’s owners Midge Hotel Holdings Limited.

The applicants claim that extensive works, for which they claim planning permission was never granted, are being carried out on the premises, including raising the overall height of the building, which render it unsightly.

They claim that Donegal County Council issued an enforcement notice in respect of those works.

However, they claim that this has resulted in the various works being speeded up, rather than ceasing.

In that action the applicants seek various orders including one requiring the hotel owner to cease carrying out construction works at the hotel, and that the building be restored to the condition it was in before the carrying out of those works.

The applicants are represented by Michael O’Donnell BL, instructed by solicitor Gabriel Toolan, in both sets of proceedings.

The matters came before Mr Justice Brian Cregan during Wednesday’s vacation sitting of the High Court.

The judge, on an ex parte basis, granted the plaintiffs permission to serve short notice of the actions on the defendants.

The matters will return before the courts in early October when the new legal term commences.