Belfast Telegraph

Date is set for NIO legal bid to evict Praxis Care

By Adrian Rutherford

A legal bid to evict a mental health charity from Hillsborough Castle will be heard in October.

The Northern Ireland Office yesterday went to court in an attempt to forcibly remove Praxis Care from the 96-acre estate.

The case is aimed at bringing an end to the long-running dispute between the NIO and Praxis, which has run the Secret Garden cafe in the grounds of Hillsborough Castle for almost a decade.

Proceedings opened in the High Court yesterday.

However, few details of the case were given, with a full hearing fixed for October 8. The case is expected to last half-a-day.

The court heard that Praxis claims it has spent at least £250,000 on the site in the expectation that it would receive a lease for at least 10 to 15 years.

The plaintiff is listed in court papers as Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State for Communities.

Lawyers for the NIO are seeking to proceed with a 113 order, which is summary proceedings for the possession of land.

However, a lawyer acting for Praxis claimed such an order was inappropriate.

Praxis was given the use of a corner of the Hillsborough estate by the NIO nine years ago.

Sixteen young people with learning disabilities work at the cafe and connected market garden.

The NIO says it needs the charity to leave to make way for Historic Royal Palaces to transform the castle into a visitor attraction.

Agreement has not been reached over when Praxis will leave and so the NIO has resorted to legal action to remove the Secret Garden Cafe.

Earlier this week a Praxis spokesman said the charity's main concern was the 16 young people who work in the cafe.

"Despite the refusal of the NIO to engage with Praxis Care and the fact that the NIO has now instigated legal action, we continue to be hopeful that a resolution can be found," he said.

The NIO expressed its disappointment at having to take court action. "Praxis Care does good work, including at Hillsborough Castle," a spokeswoman said.

"We are pleased that we have been able to do so much to support them, not least by providing them with the use of the walled garden at Hillsborough at little or no charge for over 10 years."

She added: "But this arrangement was never intended to be open-ended, and unfortunately it is not possible for Praxis to stay any longer."

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Hillsborough Castle is the Queen's residence in Northern Ireland. The NIO has been responsible for the day-to-day running of the 96-acre estate since 1972, however, last year it was announced that the estate would be run by Historic Royal Palaces. The independent charity already looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.

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