Pair win case over cut-price valuation of home at violent interface

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A mother and daughter who quit their homes amid repeated sectarian attacks have won a legal battle over the valuations of the properties.

The Court of Appeal ruled that adequate reasons were not given for a 25% reduction in the prices for Rosaleen and Annette Cooley’s houses at an east Belfast interface.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “We cannot be satisfied the valuation exercise was lawfully carried out.”

The Cooleys issued proceedings after their Mountpottinger Road properties were valued as being worth £41,000 and £40,000.

They argued the appraisal, carried out under the Housing Executive’s Scheme for the Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED), should ignore adverse security considerations.

An appeal was lodged after the High Court dismissed a judicial review challenge by the pair.

Between 2001 and 2011 around 20 different incidents of stones being thrown at the homes of Rosaleen Cooley, 73, and her 54-year-old daughter.

In March 2011 a bullet was discovered in the latter’s hall.

SPED applications were made later that year, but were turned down after police said they were not at risk of death or serious injury – a decision quashed by senior judges.

Land and Property Services valuation of the properties as having market value of £54,000 and £53,000 was then cut by 25% to reflect their interface location.

Lawyers for the Cooleys claimed the assessment was inconsistent with a SPED provision that purchase prices are to be determined as though the sale were “without adverse security considerations”.

Ruling on the appeal, Sir Declan said on Wednesday no basis for the 25% reduction had been disclosed.

Defensive architecture, noise, regular marches or parades and incidents of vandalism in the area can be taken into account, the judge acknowledged.

But without enough reasons for the price assessment, the court was left uncertain about the lawfulness of the process.