Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Owners want Donegal 'Titanic' houses levelled

An entire housing estate -- dubbed the 'Titanic site' -- which suffers from subsidence because it was built on a bog, should be levelled, according to most of the property owners.

Radharc An Seascan is a 15-house estate at Meenmore, overlooking scenic Dungloe Bay, in Co Donegal.

It was largely completed in 2007-08 and sold mostly to people from Northern Ireland who bought the properties as holiday homes and investments.

But the High Court has heard that it is being referred to locally as the "Titanic site" because within a year of completion, the entire estate suffered serious subsidence.

The owners said the subsidence caused water pipes to break, damaged central heating and sewage systems, caused steps and ramps to detach from walls and tarmac to sink.

Today, the houses have become an attraction for anti-social behaviour and illegal dumping, the owners said. They have also been subjected to vandalism and theft with the heating boilers from most of the houses stolen in October 2011.

Holes of up to one metre wide have appeared on site, posing a serious danger, particularly for children, the owners added.

The owners sued the builders, O'Kane Developments (Northwest) Ltd, and the engineers/architects, Damien McKay Ltd, of Drumany, Letterkenny -- which is now in voluntary liquidation.

The insurance company for the Donegal-based engineers/architects employed on the project has accepted liability. The case is before the court for assessment of damages

The judge heard Aviva Insurance has a sum of €2m available under the policy taken out by the architects, although this may not be enough to cover all the claims. This aspect of the case may have to be dealt with at another hearing.

Most of the owners, who paid between €155,000 and €190,000 for the houses, told the court they believed all the houses should be knocked because they could not be viably repaired.

One owner said she would like to see the estate restored to its "former glory" because it was a "beautiful estate of 15 houses in a lovely place" when it was first built.

Several owners told Mr Justice Michael Peart the entire affair had been a nightmare which has caused them enormous financial and emotional stress.

One of the purchasers is also a director of the building company O'Kanes, which is also suing for compensation.

Paul O'Kane told the court that his company was now dormant and even though he was not responsible for what had happened, his reputation had been ruined because he was associated with it.

He realised there were problems when tarmac on the site started dropping -- but the engineer, Mr McKay, told him remedial work would solve that, Mr O'Kane said.

Michael Briggs, director of Gatewood Developments, which bought two houses and owes €330,000 in outstanding mortgages, said he was concerned that the insurance company's liability was only €2m when it had been estimated the cost of repairing the estate was €3m.

The case will be mentioned today when the judge is expected to reserve his decision.

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