Belfast Telegraph

Those pigeons go over my dead body, court told

A family of bird fanciers from Portrush is causing a flap after defying council planners who ordered them to get shot of their pigeon loft.

John Edgar, of Girona Crescent, appeared before North Antrim Magistrates Court in Coleraine yesterday charged with two counts of failing to comply with planning enforcement notices after he was ordered to remove a loft from the rear of his home.

He pleaded not guilty and the case will return to court on September 6.

Edgar was previously convicted of the offence in April 2006 and his appeal fell through.

He was charged with continuing to defy orders from Planning Service after being detected in December 2008.

The pigeon enthusiast lives at the property along with Annette and Michael Wiggins, who help him with the upkeep of the loft which houses more than 80 birds.

On two previous occasions they were given time by District Judge Richard Wilson to sell their home rather than get rid of the birds.

But despite dropping the price of the house by £100,000, from £349,000 to £249,000, they have been unable to attract a buyer.

A solicitor for the Planning Service told the court: “To be fair to this man, it is one of the best constructed pigeon lofts Planning Service has come across.

“The issue is simply that it doesn't have planning permission.”

The solicitor told the court that the planning authorities were anxious to resolve the case.

Edgar — who represented himself in court — said: “Once the house is sold I'm moving. I can't do anything more until the house is moved on.”

The Planning Service representative told Mr Wilson planners had checked the price of the house on a property website and claimed their opinion was that it is valued unrealistically high, but Edgar disputed this.

The Planning Service's solicitor said the problem could be remedied by the pigeons being removed as the loft would then be classified as a shed, which would be permitted by the authorities.

This provoked a heated response from Edgar who fumed: “They would say anything to stop me keeping pigeons.

“They said there was no evidence of other people in the area keeping pigeons until I showed them another one close-by to my home. That's the bottom line.”

He added: “I have had pigeons since I was nine years old. You are asking me to give up my hobby. Under the European Courts I have every right to have a hobby. Because I live in a high class area, I'm not allowed them.”

Mr Wilson replied: “You can either move from the property or you can cease using it for a pigeon loft and keep your pigeons somewhere else. Do you understand?”

“Those pigeons go over my dead body,” said Edgar. “I'm of the opinion we are getting to the end of the road,” said Mr Wilson. “Some sort of line needs to be drawn.”

Edgar was asked if he pleaded guilty or not guilty to the charges.

“Not guilty, on the grounds it is unfair,” he said.

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