Almost two years after a proposal to set up a residential drug and alcohol treatment center in Kilcormac first came to light, the project was rejected by An Bord Pleanála.
Serenity Home Ltd’s proposal to convert the former Convent of Mercy on the village’s high street into a rehabilitation unit for up to 13 clients was cleared by Offaly County Council last August.
However, a group called ‘Concerned Residents Kilcormac’, care of its chairman Carmel Charles Gilligan, appealed to An Bord Pleanála and, in a verdict signed on April 25, the town planning council decided to refuse authorization.
In doing so, the council went against the recommendation of its inspector, Dolores McCague, who wrote a report advising that the project be allowed to proceed.
Ms McCague expressed the view that a rehabilitation center would be acceptable given that it would be ‘limited in scale’ and its clients ‘would not interact with the local community’ but would remain in the facility with professional staff for 30 days. duration of their stay.
The town planning council said its decision to refuse permission was due to concerns about the impact the development would have on the convent building itself, which is a protected structure.
The council said it was not convinced that the change of use to a rehabilitation unit would not result in “the loss of original facilities and features”, which would have “a serious and detrimental impact on inside” of the building.
The appeal, which was filed by “concerned residents of Kilcormac”, had expressed various reservations about the development, including the potential for anti-social behaviour.
He also expressed concerns about the building’s proximity to a children’s play area, a possible impact on property values and the loss of “a valuable opportunity for regeneration” for the convent village, vacant since 2018.
When the original planning application was presented to Offaly County Council, local TD Carol Nolan was among the opponents, saying she had been contacted by a number of local residents who felt the location of the center n was not suitable.
Local councilor John Leahy backed the proposed center and told the Offaly Independent he was “bitterly disappointed” with An Bord Pleanála’s decision.
He felt that opponents of the project had based their objections on “a stereotypical view of what was going to be at the center” and that “nothing could be further from the truth”.
Following the planning decision, Cllr Leahy claimed there was a possibility the convent building could be used to house refugees in the future, as its current owner, Pat Donaghy, had ‘put around €500,000’ into it. Kilcormac and should get that back. investment.
During the planning process, Pat Donaghy of Serenity Home Ltd said the rehabilitation center was supported by representatives from the Kilcormac Development Center and the Kilcormac Economic Development Group.
He said the center would have been staffed with a “skilled multidisciplinary professional team”, including a clinical manager, a rescue manager and four therapists, as well as administrative, maintenance, kitchen and cleaning staff.
Mr Donaghy has been contacted by the Offaly Independent but was unavailable to comment at press time.