Dublin City Council is being accused of "scaremongering" and "heavy-handed tactics" after a number of letters threatening fines, imprisonment and recovery of costs were issued to Rathfarnham residents who have posters on their gates objecting to the proposed Bus Connects plan in their area.
The letters, sent on May 26, say that "advertising posters" constitute "unauthorised development", and that "the matter is under investigation by the Planning Enforcement Section of Dublin City Council".
The letters also state that council officials can enter on the land at all reasonable times for the purposes of inspection, and that anyone carrying out "unauthorised development shall be guilty of an offence".
Dublin City Council said the letters were issued after it received "a complaint".
"A person who is guilty of an offence under section 151 and /or 154 (Planning and Developments Act 2000) shall be liable to a fine or term of imprisonment or both," the letters read.
Then in bold type, it states that "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 is signed by a planning enforcement manager.
It has angered locals, who say some of the people who received it are elderly residents currently cocooning during Covid-19 lockdown.
"We're talking about A3 sized posters placed on people's private gates here. I can't for the life of me see how it constitutes unauthorised development," said local man Peter Lynch, who has been approached by elderly neighbours worried about the letters they received.
The signs the locals have on their gates read 'Community Not Corridor' and 'Save Terenure' and have a link to the communitiesnotcorridors.ie website.
"Elderly neighbours have come to me who are worried about the letters," he said.
"They are cocooning from Covid-19 and worried enough as it is, without getting threatening letters about little signs on their gates.
"As far as we are aware, none of the other roads in the Dublin City Council area got notices. Why is Rathfarnham Road being singled-out?" Mr Lynch asked.
"Some of the residents who got letters are in their 80s. What are the grounds for this? They are upset by it.
"This looks like an attempt to quieten residents who are opposed to having their road widened for Bus Connects.
"I don't know if someone complained to the council, but the tone of the letter is scaremongering.
"You would have to wonder about the thought process behind it. I can't see anything in the Planning and Development Acts that makes these signs a 'development'. It is really annoying.
"If these temporary signs are illegal, then are election posters illegal? Are 'For Sale' signs used by estate agents illegal?" he asked.
One man on Rathfarnham Road, Aidan Neill, said he got four identical letters from the council on the one day.
"It was incredible. Four letters arrived in one batch with the postman. Two of them were by normal post and two of them were registered and I had to sign for them," he said.
"I think it's all very unnecessary, and it backs into the way the Bus Connects project is being run."
Asked if he had any intention of removing the sign on his gate, Mr Neill said he would not take any action straight away.
"I'll consult with the local community group and see what our response will be," he said.
Dublin City Council said a complaint was received in respect of the notices and posters.
"As with any complaint alleging unauthorised development, Dublin City Council served warning letters in respect of the properties that were brought to our attention," a spokesperson said.
The council did not say who the complaint was made by.