An Bord Pleanala has cleared the way for alterations to the interior of the existing St Joseph’s Convent Chapel in Longford town to provide 15 en suite bedrooms and construction of an extension to provide ten bedrooms and six one bedroom apartments. The facility will be used solely for members of the Sisters of Mercy.
The existing convent sits alongside the large Convent Secondary school and St Joseph’s National School. The current Convent has 38 bedrooms and under the proposal these will be remodelled to provide 15 bedrooms –a reduction of 23 bedrooms.
These together with the planned new rooms will provide 31 total bed spaces – a reduction on the 38 currently in play and this was critical to the Sisters’ of Mercy appeal to An Bord Pleanala against a development contribution fee of p123,680 directed by the Town Council, when it granted planning last year.
It was the Sisters of Mercy view that the reduction in bed spaces would lead to less demand on local authority services, and so no development contributions should apply. The Sisters of Mercy also felt it fulfilled the voluntary criteria which under the Council’s own guidelines to fees, would see it exempt.
The Convent only appealed to An Bord Pleanala on the basis of the significant development fees. An Bord Pleanala pointed out that post the initial planning decision by the Council, the two parties corresponded and the Council agreed that the applicant had charitable status and its involvement in charitable activities was on a non-profit basis.
On that basis the national planning body directed that the imposition of the €123,680 plus development fee was inappropriate. The planning appeals body said the Council had misapplied the terms of the Development Contribution Scheme by imposing the p123,680 development fees.
The Convent are now clear to go ahead with the re-development plans free of any development fees on the basis of their charitable status and the successful planning appeal.