It has emerged that the Narconon Trust received an exempted development declaration from Meath County Council regarding its plans to develop a drug rehab centre in Ballivor in October 2016.
A further search of correspondence in the planning department revealed that in August 2016 the council was asked to make a declaration under Part V of the Planning & Development Acts as to whether or not a change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was an exempted development. The Council issued a declaration on 2nd October 2016 that the change of use as outlined in the Narconon submission was exempted development, and therefore would not need new planning permission.
Narconon is the drug rehabilitation course provided by the Church of Scientology.
The Council had said: “We had previously confirmed that there had been no recent requests for pre-planning meetings and no recent contacts relating to the development and that remains the position.”
“We have now carried further searches to establish if there had been any applications or contacts in previous years by The Church of Scientology or Narconon.
“The Council can now confirm that in August 2016 we were requested by the Narconon Trust to make a declaration in accordance with Part V of the Planning & Development Acts as to whether or not a change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was an exempted development.
Cllr Noel French said this communication had come as a result of his putting a query to the planning section of Meath County Council.
He says: “It surprises me that Meath County Council did not provide this information when requested to do so in December.
“The ‘Ballivor Says No’ group had planned to challenge a change of use for the building but this revelation removes that opportunity.
“We now know that Narconon is planning a drug rehab centre in Ballivor but we should have known this when the planning decision was made. Instead we had to find these things out ourselves and spend time and energy we could devote to other work.”
The Full Statement from Meath County Council reads:
Meath County Council granted planning permission for a nursing home on the site of the old National School building (Ballivor) in December 2014 (planning reference TA140621) to Smith and Smith, Rathmore, Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford.
In September 2016, the Council was asked by Narconon Trust for an opinion as to whether or not a change of use from the permitted nursing home to a drug rehabilitation centre required further planning permission.
Having considered the relevant legislation and regulations, the Council was of the opinion that the change of use described was an exempted development and Narconon were so informed.
The Council can only give an opinion based on its interpretation of relevant legislation. An Bord Pleanála is the final arbiter of whether or not planning permission is needed.
As the Planning Authority the Council’s only consideration is whether or not the site is planning compliant. To date there is no evidence to suggest that it is not.
All other matters relating to this issue are outside of our remit.