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Bord Pleanála approves change of use of Knock assisted-living units


Anton McNulty

AN Bord Pleanála has approved the change of use of three assisted-living units at the rear of a Knock nursing home to private dwelling units. The units are expected to be used by retired clergy.
An application by Castlebar-based TH Contractors Ltd to change the use of the three assisted-living units was turned down by Mayo County Council on grounds that there was a lack of private open space and a lack of parking.
However, An Bord Pleanála (ABP) overturned the council’s decision after the applicant revised the parking arrangements. The planning inspector also felt that the private open space was adequate for one-bedroom apartments.
In 2017, planning permission was granted for the construction of a 54-bedroom nursing unit at Drum, Knock, and the construction of seven assisted living units and two independent two-bedroom houses.
The dwellings were fully constructed and completed, but the applicant sought to change three of the seven assisted-living units into dwelling houses for private sale.
The nursing home and four of the assisted living units are run by Sonas Ltd on a long-term lease. However, in the application, TH Contractors stated that Sonas’ business model means it will not lease the other three units, and so there is a need to change their use.
“The alternative will be to leave them unused, and they will deteriorate and become derelict in time. It has already been established that there is demand for those units from clergy members who wish to retire and be close to [Knock] Basilica,” explained David O’Malley, of D O’Malley & Associates, on behalf of the applicant.
In refusing planning permission, Mayo County Council stated that houses in urban/suburban areas should have a private open space area behind the building line, and that, in general, the requirement should be a minimum of 100 square metres. Council planners stated that the rear space of the dwellings falls short of these requirements, and that adequate space is not provided for refuse, fuel and domestic storage.
The applicant refuted this, saying that the minimum space was not an absolute requirement, and that in this case the minimum space was excessive, as the dwellings were only one-bedroom units. It stated that the three units measured 109 square metres, 75 square metres and 74 square metres, respectively, and that the ‘open space provided is more than sufficient, particularly given the fact that more open space is provided to each unit than the size of the unit itself’.
The applicant also provided an alternative plan for parking arrangements to meet planning requirements, and these revised plans were deemed acceptable by the ABP inspector, Louise Treacy.
Ms Treacy also agreed with the applicant that the size of the rear gardens would be entirely appropriate for one-bedroom dwellings and would provide a satisfactory standard of residential amenity for future occupants.
She added: “The private open space for these units complies with the development plan, which allows for an unspecified ‘slightly reduced standard’ below 100 square metres for one- and two-bedroom dwellings.”
She also said that ‘some flexibility’ must be provided in this case ‘given that the dwellings are already constructed’, before recommending that permission be granted.
The Board of ABP accepted her recommendation and granted planning permission, subject to three planning conditions.