Bohermeen couple Chris and Rose Murray have broken their silence over a decades long planning battle with Meath County Council that has seen them  involved in multiple court hearings over their house at Faughan Hill.

Speaking to Amy Molloy in todays Irish Independent Rose Murray opened her heart about the saga.

Molloy reported, On September 23, 2022, a solicitor acting for Meath County Council wrote to Chris and Rose Murray to say that ­officials wearing bodycams would be arriving with An Garda Síochána to take possession of their home in four days’ time.

After 16 years of seeking to demolish the 588 sq m house that was built without planning permission, the council told the couple it could find emergency accommodation for them and their three sons following a “smooth handover of the property”.

But on the same day, the Murrays secured a last-minute reprieve in the High Court.

They claimed new information had come to light that they wished to make known. After initially agreeing to comply with a court order to knock down their house, they had now decided they wanted to continue the fight to keep their family home

To be offered emergency accommodation after paying taxes and working in this country, at a time when there are thousands who are in desperate need of emergency housing, was insulting,” Ms Murray said.

We already have a roof over our head. To knock a house in the middle of a housing crisis seems ludicrous to me.”

She does concede however that the couple probably should not have done what they done.

Some people think we just came home from England, went to the middle of a big field and decided to build a massive house without getting any advice or trying to go through the proper channels – but that’s not what happened,” Ms Murray said.

The Murrays have admitted what they did was wrong. They accepted it was “arrogant and stupid” in a letter to the council.

So why, after being refused permission for a dormer bungalow on the site in 2006, did they decide to build a house that was twice the size without planning?

Frustration,” Ms Murray said. “It was a mad notion and something we shouldn’t have done.”

But in her view, “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. People don’t understand what we went through”.

A High Court judge told the Murrays when upholding the council’s decision to demolish the house that it was a “flagrant breach of the planning laws and completely unjustified”.

They have sought to drive a coach and four through the planning laws and that cannot be permitted, no matter how frustrated they may have felt on account of earlier refusals,” Mr Justice John Edwards said.

The Murrays’ story starts when they first met while living in London. Ms Murray, who is originally from Co Kilkenny, worked as a nurse, while Mr Murray earned his trade as a plumber.

In the late 1990s, following the death of Mr Murray’s father, they moved back to Meath to be close to his mother.

They married in 1999 and then set their sights on building a home to raise their young family.

In February 2004, they bought a plot of land in Ongenstown and applied for permission for a two-storey dwelling with a private well and entrance.

Two months later, the council refused. It said granting permission would go against its policy of protecting rural areas from urban overspill.

This was the beginning of the protracted battle.

The road was deemed too narrow and therefore a vehicular entrance would be a traffic hazard – and the height, scale and bulk would be “injurious to the visual amenity in the area”.

Mr. Murray said in court that another house was built on the same site after they were refused, which he found “frustrating”. The couple then found another site in Allenstown.

It was a five-acre field and we applied for planning for a bungalow,” said Ms. Murray. “We were asked for further information three times and eventually we were refused.”

The council said it was not satisfied the Murrays had sufficient interest in all lands which were the subject of the application.

It was beginning to become clear that no matter how much the Murrays complied with Council requests they were still going to be refused permission to build.

This became even more evident after an interesting move the following year.

Part of the Councils stated reason for refusal was that the development would endanger public safety as it was close to a bend on the road which would cause “restricted visibility” at the entrance.

Mr. Murray’s niece and nephew put in separate applications for houses with a new entrance on the same site in the years that followed – and both were granted permission with a significant number of conditions attached.

In 2005, 20 acres in Faughan Hill became available across the road from where Mr. Murray grew up. By now, they had two sons and Mrs. Murray was pregnant with their third.

Rose claims they then arranged a meeting with a planning official and a senior councillor to ask if they would be likely to get planning on the site.

After being assured verbally they “could see no problem”, the Murrays bought the land and put in an application for a dormer bungalow.

Planning permission had been granted for two houses in the area for members of the Murtagh family who sold them the site the year beforehand.

However, the council said they had been granted on the condition they would enter an agreement to sterilise the remainder of land, meaning no other houses could be built there.

While the council did receive letters from both those houses in respect of this no legal agreement was ever drawn up.

Since the Murrays built their home none of their neighbours objected, and to this day none of them ever have.

The family was originally ordered to demolish the house within two years in 2010 after a High Court case brought by the council. Mr Justice Edwards said it was “with very great regret” he had to agree with the council and grant the order for demolition.

Rose says that at that stage the wider public became interested in their plight.

The kids started getting questions from teachers in schools then, like, ‘When are you going to be knocking your house?’.”

The Murrays are now awaiting a High Court judgment after they sought a temporary injunction on the back of the new evidence. They also applied for another retention permission in May, offering to reduce the size of the house by a third.

We’ve offered to knock the garage, the car port and the part of the house where Chris’s mother had been living,” Ms Murray said.

However, just this week they received news the application had been rejected.

Rose says she is baffled by the whole thing, “I got two independent surveyors to come in and one quoted €350,000 to knock the house down. And that would be at the expense of Meath County Council as we can’t afford that.

How can they justify spending taxpayers’ money demolishing our home?”

That is a question the council won’t answer claiming they don’t discuss individual planning applications or cases where legal proceedings are ongoing.