Wicklow Travellers to challenge county council’s failure to provide housing

High Court hears of agreement with residents not to expand Ballinteskin halting site

 

The High Court has granted three men permission to challenge an alleged failure by Wicklow County Council to proceed with a process for building three Traveller-specific houses for their families.

John, Michael and William Connors are living with their families “in appalling conditions” on a vacant site next to the Ballinteskin halting site outside Wicklow town, the court heard.

As part of the council’s Traveller accommodation programme since 2014, there has been a proposal to build Traveller-specific homes adjacent to the site.

However, the High Court heard, when moves were made by the council recently to proceed with the plan for the houses, which would then be put before councillors for a vote, a decision was taken not to proceed any further on the basis of an alleged agreement on the non-expansion of the halting site with local residents in 1996.

Eamon Galligan SC, for the men, said provision was made for the families in the council’s 2014-18 accommodation programme and continued in the draft 2019 programme.

A process was begun this year where the plan was put out for submissions from members of the public before those submissions would come before the council CEO, who would prepare a response and a report for councillors who would then consider it, counsel said.

However, in this case no report was made and the executive of the council took a decision not to proceed despite it being a mandatory requirement of the process, counsel said.

The decision appeared to have been taken on April 12th last on the basis that in 1996 there was a purported agreement with local residents that the Ballinteskin halting site would not be expanded, he said.

Even if there was such an agreement, it was not enforceable because, counsel said, it was their view that the duty to provide this accommodation cannot be fettered and because this was not an expansion of the halting site but a housing development beside it.

The three applicants are seeking, among other things, an order quashing the April 12th decision and a declaration that the CEO is obliged to prepare a report in relation to the development within eight weeks. If necessary, they were also seeking a declaration that the report be put before councillors for consideration within a further six weeks.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan granted leave to bring judicial review proceedings following the one side only represented application.

He said the matter could come back to court later this month after Mr Galligan asked for an early return date as the families were, counsel said, living in “appalling conditions”.