Challenge brought against planning decision on proposed Co Meath drug rehab facility

Challenge brought against planning decision on proposed Co Meath drug rehab facility

A High Court challenge has been brought over a decision by an Bord Pleanála concerning a proposed €9m Co Meath-based drug rehabilitation centre.

The action arises from a decision by the planning authority last November to deem that the change of use of the permitted nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was not an exempted development.

In 2014 planning permission for a nursing home at the site was granted for the former Old National School in Ballivor, Co Meath, which was not built.

The site was acquired by Narconon Trust, which is linked to the Church of Scientology, which supports drug rehabilitation charities as part of its mission.

The Trust was founded by Mr Massimo Angius who has been a trustee and director of the Church of Scientology in England for more than 20 years.

The Trust plans to open a residential drug rehabilitation facility on the site in the coming months.

It bought the site after it secured a declaration from Meath Co Council in 2016 that the proposed change of use from a nursing to a residential drug rehabilitation facility is an exempted development and did not require a fresh planning application to be made.

The Trust provides drug prevention, education, and residential rehab programmes at approximately 40 facilities all over the world has already spent €9m on purchasing and constructing the facility.

In February 2018 Ballivor Community Group and Trim Municipal District of Meath Co Council sought various declarations from Meath Council asking if the proposed facility is exempted development.

The Council referred the matter to An Bord Pleanala, which in November held that the change of use of the permitted nursing home to the residential drug rehabilitation facility is not exempted development.

As a result, the Trust has brought proceedings against An Bord Pleanála.

Represented in court by Jarath Fitzsimons SC the Trust, which is registered in Sussex in the UK, seeks a High Court order quashing the decision of An Bord Pleanala claiming it erred in law.

It also seeks a declaration from the court including that in making the decision An Bord Pleanala took into account irrelevant considerations, overlooked and misunderstood relevant considerations, and acted unreasonably.

Counsel said his client was also seeking a stay on the decision of An Bord Pleanála because it feared that enforcement proceedings could be brought against the Trust.

Meath Co Council, the Ballivor Community Group, and Trim Municipal District are notice parties to the proceedings.

The application came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan today.

The Judge, on an ex parte basis, granted the Trust permission to bring the proceedings.

The judge also put a stay on the decision of An Bord Pleanala, pending further order of the court. The matter will come back before the court in March.

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