Coillte branches out in bid to build tax-break care homes
STATE forestry company Coillte has spent €120,000 making last-minute planning applications to build five nursing homes across the country.
The move will enable the company to avail of generous tax breaks.
The Irish Independent can reveal that the company has applied to build the homes with a total of 552 bedrooms.
And all the planning applications were made in the last week of December so a Revenue deadline allowing it avail of the tax breaks could be met.
The scheme to encourage construction of nursing homes -- which ended on December 31 -- would allow Coillte to write off the cost of building the facilities, which would all be housed on state land.
Once completed, the properties could be leased to a private operator and provide a source of income for the agency. Coillte could also decide to run the facilities.
Applications have been made for nursing home developments in Westport, Co Mayo; Carrick in Co Wexford; Castlemartyr in Co Cork; Carrowbawn in Co Galway and at Quin in Co Clare.
The country's largest landowner, Coillte controls just over 445,000 hectares of land or about 7pc of the country's land cover.
A commercial company, it operates in forestry, land-based businesses, renewable energy and panel products. It also makes wood panel products for the construction industry.
However the move into nursing home development is a new departure for the company, which has been badly hit by the economic downturn.
The company's most recent annual report shows that profits fell to €9.2m in 2008 from €40m in 2007, with turnover also falling to €250m from €318m.
The tax breaks allow builders of nursing homes to write off the capital cost over six years.
A Revenue spokeswoman last night confirmed that to qualify for the tax breaks, a valid planning application had to be made by December 31 last.
But these applications are not the first time the forestry company has attempted to cash in on the value of state lands.
Coillte applied for permission to build an 86-bedroom nursing home on Colonel's Wood, Knockranny in Westport -- a well-known local amenity area -- on December 22 last.
It had previously been refused permission to build 61 homes on the site. The fee for making the application was almost €27,000.
In Co Cork, the company applied for permission for a 90-bed facility on December 21 last. The fee was almost €21,000. It had previously been refused permission to build 30 homes on the site.
The application for the 100-bed facility in Co Galway -- which is beside a national monument -- was made on December 22 at a cost of almost €27,000. It had previously sought permission for 20 houses on the site.
In Co Clare, the application for an 82-bed home was made on December 22 at a cost of €20,000. In Co Wexford, Coillte sought permission for an 108-bed facility on the same date, and fees came to €25,500.
There has been no previous planning application on these sites. Coillte said it took a "strategic approach" to managing its estate, and identified "potentially suitable sites" for development with an emphasis on sustainability.
"During 2009, we undertook a feasibility assessment on nursing care facilities," it said in a statement
"There is a potential opportunity for Coillte to develop a portfolio of nursing care facilities on some of our properties. This need is supported by recent ESRI research.
"Coillte has made no decision in relation to the operation of these proposed facilities."