Wheelchair-user (23) initiates legal action over right of way dispute to family home

by Rachel Cunningham
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Rachel Cunningham

A young Dublin-based wheelchair-user will soon begin legal action after being excluded from the upper half of the 150m right of way between his Blackrock family home and the N11, according to Owen Stubbs (23) and his family.

The developer, Richmond Homes, has replaced the pathway, which was compared to a country lane prior to the change, with large steps that now make it inaccessible to wheelchair users.

The decision to pursue the case through the legal system followed an Irish Times article published last month, which led to the Stubbs family being contacted by a number of legal experts in Ireland on public right of way.

“Whatever about Dún Laoighaire-Rathdown and An Bord Pleanála giving them planning permission, they actually can’t legally do what they’re doing”, Graham Stubbs, Owen’s father, claimed to the Dublin Gazette.

“The advice we’ve received to date is that it’s a public right of way and they refer to it as such in their documents and our understanding is that they can’t change or construct on a public right of way. 

“They can’t change the route of a public right of way, which they’re planning to do, and we believe they’ve changed the gradient of it to accommodate their development, which they aren’t allowed to do either”.

“Owen is actually going to take the legal case and we’re going through the sort of process of due diligence for that at the moment with our lawyers and we expect legal proceedings to begin in early June.

“We’ve notified the developers, Richmond Homes, to that effect and we’ve also notified who they are trying to sell to, Aberdeen Standard Investments. They are aware that legal proceedings will be pending”, Mr Stubbs added.

On Wednesday, May 25, local residents, family, friends, people with disabilities and wheelchair users gathered in their droves to protest the issue, marching from the Stubbs’ family home to the N11. The aim, Mr Stubbs explained, was to highlight how the 80m right of way that had enabled Owen to access bus stops, neighbours houses and the N11 had drastically transformed into a 900-metre hike.

What particularly frustrates the Stubbs family, is that they had spoken Richmond homes before they had put in their planning submission. “Dublin needs housing and we are in support of the site being developed but we wanted to make sure that the access issues were sorted. And they completely ignored us, Mr Stubbs said.

“We have retained a solicitor and senior counsel as we are contemplating legal action. We believe that what has been done is unlawful, unethical, highlights poor planning and is just plain wrong in this day and age”. 

Mr Graham showed the Dublin Gazette copies of  letters from Dublin County Council and DLRCC clearly stating that Knocksinna Court is under its charge. “The developer and DLRCC maintain Knocksinna Court isn’t [under its charge] and the developer intends to include it in their management company and also used Knocksinna Court in their original site plan and calculations for density purposes. We will be questioning that as well,” he said. 

An Bord Pleanála awarded permission to the strategic housing development in July 2019, with one condition, stipulating: “…members of the public will have free and unrestricted access at all times to the pedestrian and cycle link which connects Granville Road with the N11.”

The Stubbs family was shocked that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council found the Richmond Homes plans to be in compliance and has expressed their disappointment that the ‘members of the public’ stipulation does not appear to factor in people with disabilities.

Richmond Homes has defended the construction of the steps, stating that the gradient was too steep to be approved under wheelchair ramp regulations and that reducing the gradient would have meant building the ramp in a zig-zag pattern, which would have reduced the required density of 167 apartment units per hectare.

  A communications representative from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown responded to a request for comment, stating: “The Planning Authority cannot comment on individual planning applications” .

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