Serial objectors to planning fail to have proceedings brought against them struck out as SLAPP litigation

The High Court has refused an application to strike out proceedings brought by a property developer against serial objectors to the developer’s planning applications and permissions.

Seeking to restrain a party from making applications in an administrative process is neither unprecedented nor impermissible.

Mr Lynch owns lands adjoining lands owned by Glenveagh in Navan, Co. Meath. Glenveagh claims that an agreement to purchase the lands from Mr Lynch was agreed in principle but when he sought a higher price negotiations ended. Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy (using the names Denise Leavy, Denis Leavy and DM Leavy) then started making observations to planning applications and challenging permissions obtained by Glenveagh on lands as far as 200 kms away from where Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy reside. Glenveagh maintains that this is an abuse of public participation in the planning process and done for ulterior purposes.

Glenveagh Homes Limited issued proceedings against Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy arising from their serial objections to planning applications made and permissions obtained by Glenveagh. In addition to seeking damages for the costs incurred by reason of the delays caused by Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy, Glenveagh sought a number of other remedies, including an Isaac Wunder Order restraining them from making any further observations or appeals in respect of certain specified sites.

Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy brought an application to strike out the proceedings against them on the basis that they amount to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP).

In denying the application the Court noted, inter alia, as follows;

    • the proposed Isaac Wunder order restraining a party from making applications in an administrative process as opposed to a judicial process is not unprecedented or impermissible;
    • the Defendants had not demonstrated that the action has sufficient indicia of a SLAPP or otherwise of an abuse of process so as to demonstrate prima facie that it is such an action;  
    • insofar as can be assessed at the motion stage, the action raises complex issues of fact and law more appropriate to be determined at a full trial;
    • the pleaded reliefs are generally known to the law and any element of innovation is not one that has no reasonable prospect of success, insofar as that can be assessed pre-trial;
    • the Defendants had not shown that there is no reasonable prospect of evidence being available to Glenveagh to support the pleaded case;
  • Glenveagh’s claim that Mr Lynch and Ms Leavy were trying to “shake down” Glenveagh for the purposes of extortion, and if the extortion was successful, they (Lynch and Leavy) could make the environmental concerns “go away” was “not manifestly unfounded”.
  • Glenveagh’s basic point is not that complicated appeals against the grant of planning permission are capable of causing measurable monetary loss which potentially constitutes a realistic basis or need for damages, assuming that the allegation is proven factually and legally at trial.
  • The Defendants’ submission that Glenveagh does not have a right to have its applications approved does not mean that it has no rights.

The Court indicated its preliminary view on the costs of the application being that the Defendants would not be entitled to any costs as against Glenveagh and Glenveagh’s costs would be reserved until a decision on whether or not the Defendants are entitled to costs protection under the Aarhus convention is made.

AMOSS LLP act for Glenveagh Homes Limited in these proceedings.