Saturday 21 September 2019

Scientology project for drug rehab now faces plans delay

Noel French: FG councillor welcomed the decision
Noel French: FG councillor welcomed the decision

Louise Walsh

Plans for a drug rehabilitation centre connected to the Church of Scientology have received a set-back with An Bord Pleanála ruling it is not exempt from planning permission.

Construction works are nearing completion on the controversial development in the Co Meath village of Ballivor.

The centre had received an exempted development declaration from Meath County Council on plans submitted by Narconon - on off-shoot of the church - in October 2016.

However, An Bord Pleanála has overturned this decision.

The ruling was made in response following two appeals from the Ballivor Community Group and Trim Municipal District Council.

The development had been approved for a 54-bed nursing home.

Meath County Council deemed a change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehab facility was not a material change of use and was an exempted development.

An Bord Pleanála has ruled it is not exempt, and there were different planning considerations to consider when compared to a nursing home.

In its decision, An Bord Pleanála stated that a drug rehabilitation centre would have "different patterns of traffic, and pedestrian activity/movement, a different service to a different user group, including a population with a broader age profile and who are drug dependant and with limited interaction with the local community, and is, therefore a material change of use, and is development".

"Common sense has prevailed at last. It's a good day for Ballivor. It's a good day for Ireland," said local Fine Gael councillor Noel French.

Narconon Ireland said it was seeking legal advice: "Meath County Council granted Narconon planning permission in 2016.

"The building is nearly completed. We adhered to planning laws from start to finish.

"We are surprised by this decision from An Bord Pleanála more than two years later and we are seeking legal advice."

Irish Independent

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