In what may be the first of many such exchanges, Athlone Town Council was successful this week (March 23 ) in bringing an action against a pair of Galway developers and their parent company for their failure to complete a Coosan housing estate.
Two men, John Magee, Rockhill, Salthill, Galway and Jonathan Duggan of Slí an Bhradáin, Claregalway, Co Galway, but who both also gave addresses as c/o their now defunct company, Fides Developments Ltd., Kiltartan House, Forster Street, Galway, were fined €1,900 each, and made liable for expenses of €3,547 between them for the two breaches of planning law for which they were convicted.
“Best of luck in collecting that,” said Judge Seamus Hughes to David McEntee, solicitor for the town, having noted that Fides Developments had recently been wound down, none of the defendants had shown up in court, and a third director, Pat Walzer with an address with a firm of Dublin 2 solicitors, had refused to accept his summons to court.
The court had heard how, following a number of complaints in July 2009 from residents in the 45-house, Churchwood estate in Coosan, Athlone Town Council began enforcement actions against the firm and its directors for unfinished sewerage, kerbing, landscaping, and an incomplete “wearing course” [the top layer of road tar] and the subsequent raised manholes causing some vehicular discomfort.
The council’s enforcement officer, James Joyce, who carried out a number of inspections in October 2009 after the enforcement notices had been sent out, told Judge Hughes there was between €60,000 and €70,000 worth of remedial work required to finish the estate.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you put this [estate]? Does it look bad?” asked the judge.
“It’s not the worst,” said Mr Joyce.
“I’m glad you said that,” said the judge.
Mr McEntee then told the court that the town council was also preparing proceedings against the bondholder of the estate, Ulster Bank, because it was delaying in releasing the €52,000 bond Fides lodged before it started developing.
“€52,000 would go a long way to re-instating the estate. Why are you deciding to go against people who have provided security to complete the project?” asked the judge.
“Paying security does not exempt a developer from finishing an estate,” said Mr McEntee.
“I’m concerned you’re taking the soft option. I mean, the most important document in a title is the bond, and people are complaining to a local authority?” queried the judge.
“And the town council is going against a company that is struck off?” he further probed.
“In fairness, judge we are pursuing both the bondholder and the defendants,” said Mr McEntee.
A second council officer gave evidence that after a further inspection of Churchwood in July 2010, he was satisfied the landscaping was finished, but that the foul and surface water sewers were still not finished.
“The case is proven, but it’s not the most serious case,” said Judge Hughes, as he found in favour of the town council.
There are 150 unfinished estates in Westmeath.