Planning breach couple may have to bulldoze property in Northern Ireland
Co Down husband and wife fined £150,000 following 12-year row over illegal building work
A Co Down couple must pay a mammoth £150,000 in fines and now face the prospect of tearing down part of their Greyabbey home after a judge convicted them of planning breaches.
As well as fining Roberta and William James Young £75,000 each at Downpatrick Magistrates Court, District Judge Greg McCourt ordered the couple to pay £750 in costs.
And he warned that every day the offending building remained standing "is a continuing offence".
The judge's decision is the latest stage in a long-running saga that began in 2004.
Since then the case has been referred to the County Court, the High Court in Belfast and even the Supreme Court as the Youngs sought to cast doubt on the legalities of the enforcement against them.
The couple, from Carrowdore Road in Greyabbey, were not in court yesterday.
And although they had chosen to represent themselves despite the fact they had been granted legal aid, Judge McCourt said they had been "made fully aware" their trial would be proceeding either with or without them.
The judge heard that "as long ago as 2004" the couple had been served with an enforcement notice by the planning authorities as a result of property being built at their home that was in breach of planning permission. They had been allowed to build a single-storey structure, but instead built an extra storey on top of that, the court heard. A prosecuting lawyer told the court that since its inception in January 2004, the case "has been before the Magistrates Court, twice", all through the higher courts "all the way to the Supreme Court", and that at each and every stage the courts had deemed "there is nothing wrong with the enforcement notice and that the law has been applied correctly".
"An inspection has been carried out more recently," said the lawyer, adding that the offending building remains standing - meaning "the enforcement (notice) has not been complied with".
"I have considered the evidence from enforcement officer Barker about failure to comply with the enforcement notice and I'm accepting that both parties have failed to comply, so there will be convictions," said Judge McCourt.
Ordering the couple to pay the £150,000 in fines, Judge McCourt warned the Youngs were continuing to offend "for every day the offending building remains standing".