Wed. Apr 17th, 2024
alert-–-yoga-teacher-and-her-catering-boss-husband-who-were-exiled-from-local-wine-society-by-‘nimby’-neighbours-are-forced-to-sell-their-1.5m-home-to-pay-150k-legal-bill-after-losing-court-battle-over-redevelopment-plansAlert – Yoga teacher and her catering boss husband who were exiled from local wine society by ‘nimby’ neighbours are forced to sell their £1.5m home to pay £150k legal bill after losing court battle over redevelopment plans

A couple who were exiled from their local wine society by ‘nimby’ neighbours are being forced to sell their £1.5million home to pay a £150,000 legal bill they racked up while battling them in court. 

Yoga teacher Emma McGuiness and her catering boss husband Terence McGuinness will have to pay the ‘life-changing’ sum following a planning dispute which divided their tiny 47-house enclave of The Ridgeway in Oxshott, Surrey.

The couple locked horns with neighbours living around their sprawling four-bedroom home, Birch Mead, which they planned to demolish to make way for two new houses.

They wanted to build two houses so that Mrs McGuinness’ poorly father could live beside them, but claimed they were ‘shunned and ostracised’ by some neighbours on the private estate over the plans.

Mr McGuinness said the couple ‘lost touch’ with some in the community over the plans, with his wife no longer taking part in the wine society, chats at the gate or summer picnics.

Terence and Emma McGuinness are facing a ‘life-changing’ £150,000-plus court bill following a planning row with their neighbours 

The couple locked horns with neighbours living around their sprawling four-bedroom home, Birch Mead, which they planned to demolish to make way for two new houses

They were sued by the residents’ company which owns the private roads accessing the estate – Ridgeway (Oxshott) Management Ltd (ROML) – which sought an injunction banning them from using their roads to carry out the build.

They lost their case in August and now, after another hearing at Central London County Court, have been handed the lawyers’ bills for the entire dispute, thought to be more than £150,000.

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Their barrister, George Woodhead, urging Judge Simon Monty KC to minimise the amount they will have to pay, said the dispute and its costs would result in them having to sell up and leave.

‘What happened in August was very upsetting for my clients,’ he said. ‘I’m representing a family for whom the costs liability is going to be life-changing.

‘My clients are selling their property to cover the costs. They are seeking to sell their property as a result of this litigation, and not just in regard to the costs.’

Mrs McGuinness, 41, was formerly a competitive figure skater, but has now carved out a successful career as a teacher of trendy Bikram ‘hot’ yoga.

Her husband, 45, has a background in acting and drama, having trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, where Mrs McGuinness was also a student, but is now sales director at a catering firm.

During the trial in August, the court heard the couple already have planning permission to level their existing family home – which is valued online at around £1.5m – and build two new houses on the site.

However the company – whose directors and shareholders are made up of neighbours on the estate – argued that conditions of sale and access rights restrict owners to ‘one plot one house’ and that a two-house project would cause mayhem on the ‘idyllic and secluded’ private estate.

The couple insisted their plans were not about making money or creating a luxury home but to ensure that Mrs McGuinness’ frail father can live beside them, where they can look after him 

Mrs McGuinness, 41, was formerly a competitive figure skater, but has now carved out a successful career as a teacher of trendy Bikram ‘hot’ yoga

The couple insisted their plans were not about making money or creating a luxury home but to ensure that Mrs McGuinness’ frail father can live beside them, where they can look after him.

Mrs McGuinness’ father, Simon Barnett, who formerly worked for King Charles before retiring, suffers from chronic ill health and wishes to relocate with his wife to live alongside his daughter and her family.

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The couple’s barrister, George Woodhead, accused some members of the residents’ company of ‘nimbyism’ and ‘hypocrisy’ in blocking the McGuinnesses project when other work has been allowed.

Giving evidence, Mr McGuinness said he and his family had ‘lost touch with people’ and felt ‘ostracised’ due to discord over their plans, while before they had mingled freely on the estate where they have lived for ten years.

However, the company’s barrister Miriam Seitler pointed out that socialising had been curtailed in recent years due to Covid, also noting that Mr and Mrs McGuinness had been invited to Jubilee and Coronation street parties.

Mr McGuinness agreed they had gone to both events, explaining in relation to the Jubilee party: ‘we made a point of wanting to go because I don’t think this is a personal issue and we wanted to be there because we felt we should be.

‘But all that day, I was watching to make sure that Emma wasn’t on her own – and it wasn’t what it should have been.’

The barrister said that no one had stopped the couple socialising, but Mr McGuinness replied: ‘What I’m talking about is things like Emma no longer being part of the wine society and not mixing like she did – not having conversations at the gate and not having summer picnics with people.

Mrs McGuinness’ father, Simon Barnett, suffers from chronic ill health 

‘That’s the real relationship which has stopped and that’s because of the way that this has been handled.’

He added: ‘Certainly we felt ostracised. The last two years have been extremely difficult for us.’

In August, Judge Monty ruled against the couple, saying that the conditions of sale were ‘limited to the use of the plot for a single dwelling house.’

He added: ‘I was particularly struck by the genuinely held views of the residents, supported by ROML itself, that the ‘one plot, one house’ principle is of great importance to them’.’

While some of the McGuinness’ neighbours had supported their plans, more than eight out of ten of those on the estate opposed the build, said the judge, noting that the couple had bought their home ‘with their eyes wide open’ and in full knowledge of the restrictions on development.

‘In my judgment, they bought Birch Mead knowing that there were restrictions in place – and if properly advised they would have been told that they could not apply to remove them – and they should be held to their bargain,’ he said.

In a hearing last week in which he argued that the couple’s legal bill should be reduced, their barrister Mr Woodhead argued that the case did not need to go to trial and should have been settled.

The couple had offered £80,000 to settle the dispute, but the company had refused to go to mediation, he said.

During the trial in August, the court heard the couple already have planning permission to level their existing family home – which is valued online at around £1.5m – and build two new houses on the site 

‘The parties should in a neighbours’ dispute – and that is essentially what this is – explore alternative dispute resolution,’ he said.

‘This is a neighbours’ dispute – tense, emotive and perfectly resolvable in alternative dispute resolution.

‘The claimant has made no offers or attempts to settle this matter pre-trial.

‘Alternative dispute resolution would have cost around £14,000. This is now a dispute which has cost £140,000 – ten times that – just on the claimant’s side.’

He asked the judge to make them pay only half of the company’s £140,000 costs bill.

Ruling, Judge Monty said: ‘The defendants, who lost hands down and now want a 50% costs discount.

‘The claimant’s view was ”it doesn’t matter what you offer us, it’s a point of principle and we are going to court”.

‘The defendants lost. This is a dispute that had no reasonable prospect of settlement in mediation. It seems to me the claimant should have the whole of its costs.’

The judge ordered the couple, who have already paid £30,000, to pay another £25,000 up front ahead of a full assessment of the company’s legal bills.

They will also have to foot their own lawyers’ bills, the amount of which was not revealed in court, but which are substantial.

The judge said that, as the result of losing their fight, the couple had ”accepted an undertaking that they will not develop the property by demolishing and building two properties”.

‘If they are found to be in breach of that undertaking, they are likely to be found in contempt of court,’ he concluded.