Plans for a drug rehabilitation centre in a Meath village by an off-shoot development of the Church of Scientology has received a setback today after An Bord Pleanála ruled saying that it is not exempt from planning permission.
Construction works are nearing completion on the controversial development in Ballivor, which had received an exempted development declaration from Meath Co Council on plans by Narconon in October 2016.
The news was welcomed by local Fine Gael Cllr Noel French who expressed his disbelief in the ruling.
"I'm amazed, I can hardly believe it," he said.
"Common sense has prevailed at last. It's a good day for Ballivor. It's a good day for Ireland.
The building had been approved planning permission for a 54-bed nursing home and Meath Co Council had judged that Narconon did not need further permission to change it to a drug rehab centre.
Update: 8.25pm: In a statement, Narconon Ireland said: "Planning permission was received from Meath County Council in December 2014 to change the use of the National School building in Ballivor to a nursing home.
"In August 2016 Narconon Trust requested Meath County Council to make a declaration in accordance with part V of the Planning and Development Act as to whether or not a change of use from a nursing home to a residential drug rehabilitation facility was exempted development.
"The Council decided to declare on the September 29. 2016 that the change of use as outlined was "exempted development" and therefore would not require planning permission. On that basis Nacronon Trust began the construction of a drug rehabilitation centre. The building is nearly complete.
"Now today, over two years since Meath County Council issued that declaration in 2016, An Bord Pleanala has given a decision overturning that declaration.
"Narconon Trust is presently considering its position and seeking advice on this matter."