The owners of a Co Down residence overlooking Belfast Lough have lost a legal battle over a planned new development obstructing their sea view.
Senior judges upheld a ruling that Hector and Claire Lester unreasonably withheld consent to the building of a home in front of Dunratho House.
Madam Justice McBride held the Lesters’ stance on land marketed as a building site was impermissible and unreasonable.
Legal action centred on Philomena Walsh’s request to build a house on a site at Glen Road, in the Cultra area of north Down.
With planning permission obtained, her proposal ran into difficulties due to opposition from Mr and Mrs Lester.
They refused to consent because of the potential impact on Dunratho House.
Described as a substantial residential property, Dunratho House is situated on an elevated site with views across Belfast Lough.
Last year a High Court judge declared that the Lesters had unreasonably withheld consent.
They appealed his decision, arguing that clauses in a lease covering the site contained a restriction on building height.
It was also contended that it included an absolute prohibition on any development which interfered with the sea view.
However, the Court of Appeal held that the clause cannot mean the view is totally protected from all obstruction.
Madam Justice McBride, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Weir, pointed out that the land had been sold as a building site.
A dwelling can be erected in the relevant area, even though it obstructs the sea view, provided it complies with height restrictions, she said.
The judge concluded that the appellants were attempting to increase their rights beyond the purpose of the legal covenant.
She confirmed: “We therefore find the appellants are unreasonably withholding their consent.”