Wednesday 23 October 2019

Hoteliers seek to block tourist lettings at Cork student facility


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Seán McCárthaigh

The Irish Hotels Federation is attempting to block a large student accommodation facility in Cork from being rented out on a short-term basis to tourists.

The IHF has sought a ruling from An Bord Pleanála on whether the use of Amnis House on Western Road in Cork for year-round, short-term letting represents a material change of use of the building which requires planning permission.

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However, the owner of Amnis House, a 30-unit facility which opened last year, denies that it has ever been used for short-term letting on a year-round basis. Western Road Student Ireland claimed the IHF was seeking clarification about a "hypothetical and totally irrelevant question".

The IHF referred the case for adjudication after complaining that Amnis House was advertising short-term lets on last April.

It claimed the site listed it as one of its best-sellers in Cork, and had been welcoming guests since February 2019.

The IHF said the facility was also listed on another website, Expedia, where it was described as an aparthotel available for short-term rental between June and August.

Although it is still listed on both websites, bookings are no longer available. All units for the 2019/20 college year are listed as sold out.

The body had called on Cork City Council to instruct the owners of Amnis House to refrain from advertising it for short-term letting with immediate effect, as it constituted unauthorised development.

The IHF noted the grant of planning permission for the development of student accommodation at Amnis House imposed a condition that no change of use - including for other types of residential accommodation - was permitted without council or An Bord Pleanála approval.

The IHF pointed out that under the Cork City Council Development Plan 2015, any change of use from student accommodation requires planning permission.

The plan also states any such applications will generally be restricted unless it can be adequately demonstrated there is an over-provision of student accommodation in Cork city.

However, Western Road Student Ireland called for the case to be dismissed on the basis the IHF had provided no evidence that Amnis House was being used for year-round, short-term letting.

It also maintained that student accommodation can be used as tourist accommodation outside academic term times under planning legislation, which is why Amnis House was available to rent on a short-term basis between June and August.

In a statement, the IHF said it supported a level playing field between all tourism accommodation providers.

Amnis House was the focus of a protest by students from UCC and Cork Institute of Technology in September 2018 over room costs, which ranged from €210 to €225 a week.

A decision on the case is expected later this month.

Irish Independent

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