NORTHERN Ireland Electricity could face hundreds of new compensation claims following a landmark verdict over a pylon located in a south Belfast couple's garden, it was predicted today.
The Court of Appeal upheld a £15,500 compensation award to Roy and Ivy McKibbin for the company's alleged refusal to remove the tower from the side of their home in the Four Winds area.
Judges backed an assessment that the property had diminished in value by 10 per cent due to the presence of what the couple described as a "monstrosity".
The McKibbins' solicitor, John Gibbons, predicted the test case verdict could open the floodgates to a huge number of similar claims.
NIE Networks Ltd mounted appeals following Lands Tribunal decisions related to installations on both industrial and residential property.
Under current legislation land owners and occupiers can seek compensation for involuntary "wayleaves" required to place equipment and cabling.
In one case the tribunal had awarded £30,000 compensation to cover a drop in market value of Brickkiln Waste Ltd's land in Maydown, Derry.
Setting aside that award, the court held there had been a failure to demonstrate any diminution.
Turning to Mr and Mrs McKibbin's case, however, Sir Reg Weir set out how they had requested the removal of NIE equipment after the last of their voluntary agreements ended in 2009.
The couple stated that their enjoyment of their house and garden was impaired by birds on the tower leaving droppings on the garden and car beneath.
Reference was made to the wires making a "singing" noise in some weather conditions, along with difficulties in maintaining their garden due to the pylon's legs.
"They describe the tower in their garden as 'a monstrosity', a description which from the photographs does not seem an exaggeration," Sir Reg said.
The court also heard a Bank of Ireland policy document expressed reluctance to lend on properties where high power lines pass over the house or garden except in exceptional circumstances.
The public perception, whether or not well-founded, is that the health of those living close to power lines may be adversely affected, according to the McKibbins' evidence.
NIE appealed the Tribunal's decision that £15,500 compensation should be paid to reflect the potential drop in the worth of their property.
But based on an examination of the evidence and photographs, Sir Reg held that it was fully entitled to assess the diminution in value at 10 per cent.
Outside court their lawyer confirmed he will be seeking to have other similar cases listed for hearing as soon as possible.
Property Compensation Consultants in Cheshire, who handled the case, has welcomed the decision.