An Bord Pleanala has ruled that the controversial Narconon drug rehabilitation facility currently under construction in Ballivor is not exempted development and will require a new planning permission.
The news is being seen as a massive victory locally for campaigners who are opposed to Narconon's plans to open a rehab centre to cater for 34 recovering addicts in the south Meath village.
Planning permission was in place for a nursing home on the site of the former national school and it emerged earlier this year that Meath County Council had ruled back in 2016 a drug rehabilitation centre would not require a change of use in planning.
However, this view was challenged with the lodging of two separate 'section five' referrals by Trim Municipal District Councillors and the Ballivor Community which were referred on to An Bord Pleanala by Meath County Council in February. In the meantime, work has been ongoing on the €5.6m facility.
Today, it has been confirmed that an Bord Pleanala has ruled that the change from a nursing home to a drug rehabilitation centre is not exempted development and would be a "factual change of use".
In correspondance to the parties, it stated: "An Bord Pleanala has decided that the change of use of the permitted nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility is development and not an exempted development. The proposed use as a residential drug rehabilitation facility would be a factual change of use from use as a nursing home and such change of use would raise material planning considerations including 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."
Local Councillor Noel French, who was to the fore of the campaign against the facility welcomed the decision. He said: "It's wonderful news. It's a brilliant day for Ballivor. It's a brilliant day for common sense. I am absolutely delighted that this ridiculous planning decision that it was exempt development has been reversed and now people have an opportunity to object to this development and we will be objecting to this development. We have a long list of reasons why a drug rehabilitation centre is not suitable for the village of Ballivor."