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Council backs down on threats to fine locals over bus protest posters

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One of the messages pinned to gates by residents objecting to the transport corridor project. Photo: Frank McGrath

One of the messages pinned to gates by residents objecting to the transport corridor project. Photo: Frank McGrath

One of the messages pinned to gates by residents objecting to the transport corridor project. Photo: Frank McGrath

Dublin City Council has decided not to follow-up on threats of fines and imprisonment in letters it sent to elderly Rathfarnham residents over anti-Bus Connects posters they put on their garden gates.

The local authority had been accused of "scaremongering" and "heavy-handed tactics" after a number of letters threatening fines, imprisonment, and recovery of costs were issued to residents who have posters objecting to the proposed Bus Connects plan in their area.

The letters, sent on May 26, said "advertising posters" constitute "unauthorised development" and "the matter is under investigation by the Planning Enforcement Section of Dublin City Council.

The Herald highlighted residents' anger on Monday and later the same day the council said it had decided to "close its files on the matter".

DCC had told the Herald the letters were issued following a complaint, but did not say who had made it.

It is understood the council now considers the signs on the gates to be a minor breach of planning and a reasonable way of people engaging in their right to protest.

The news of the climbdown was welcomed by Fianna Fail Councillor Deirdre Conroy, who said the council should now communicate the update to the affected residents as soon as possible.

"They need to write to those people who were sent letters in the first place to tell them of their decision not to proceed with any further investigation," she said.

"These people need to be reassured that the matter will not go any further.

"They have been worried about it since they received the first letters."

The letter had stated council officials can enter on the land at all reasonable times for the purposes of inspection.

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Our exclusive story on Monday

Our exclusive story on Monday

Our exclusive story on Monday

It added that anyone carrying out "unauthorised development shall be guilty of an offence".

Then in bold type it said "any costs reasonably incurred by Dublin City Council in relation to Enforcement Proceedings may be recovered from a person on whom an Enforcement Notice is served or where court action is taken".

The letter was signed by a planning enforcement manager.

It angered locals who said some of the people who received it are elderly residents cocooning during Covid-19 lockdown.

Worried

"We're talking about A3-sized posters placed on people's private gates here," said local man Peter Lynch, who had been approached by worried elderly neighbours.

"I can't for the life of me see how it constitutes unauthorised development.

"The signs the locals have on their gates read 'Community Not Corridor' and 'Save Terenure' and have a link to the communitiesnotcorridors.ie website."

Reacting to the decision by the council not to proceed with further investigation on the matter, Mr Lynch also said the council should now write to the residents it had contacted before.

"They need to be reassured that the matter is over now and there will be no action taken," he said.

"At least they made a quick decision on it, but I'd still like to know what the potential 'breach' of legislation was.

"I don't think there was any."

One Rathfarnham Road resident, Aidan Neil, told the Herald he had received four warning letters from DCC in one batch of post.

Two of them were by registered mail.

"I would like to see the council write to us again now and tell us this matter is over," he said.