Site that was to host Kilkenny mosque is not vacant, says An Bord Pleanala

Bord: Absence of sufficient evidence to support contention site was vacant for 12 months prior

Sam Matthews

Reporter:

Sam Matthews

Email:

sam.matthews@kilkennypeople.ie

Bord Pleanala

File Photo: The Bord determined that, based on the information before it, the site is not a vacant site within the meaning of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, 2015, as amended

A piece of land — which had been approved for a new mosque in Kilkenny City but was then refused by An Bord Pleanala — has been removed from Kilkenny’s Vacant Sites Register, and so will not be subject to a levy.

Kilkenny County Council gave notice in December 2018 that it would be included on its vacancy register, making it eligible to pay the Vacant Sites Levy. However, this inclusion was appealed, and the Bord has upheld the appeal.

The site fronts onto Hebron Road along its northern boundary, and the western boundary fronts onto Bishop Birch Place. To the south is Aldi. To the north east on the opposite side of Hebron Road is St Kieran’s Cemetery, and to the north is O’ Loughlin Gaels GAA Club.

The appeal, by Thomas Dermot McPhillips, also set out that Mr McPhilips is no longer the site’s owner. It said the owner is now is Menesiah Ltd, a company of which Mr McPhillips is a director. This was supported by a solicitor’s letter that states that the title of the lands in question were transferred from Thomas Dermot McPhillips to Menesiah Ltd, dated December 7, 2015.

The appeal also argued that site is a regeneration site and is neither vacant or idle. It noted that (at the time) it had ‘extant permission for a mixed use development’. This referred to the granting of planning permission by Kilkenny County Council for a religious cultural centre on the site. (This planning permission was the subject of an appeal to An Bord Pleanala, and was later refused).

Kilkenny County Council gave notice that it considered the site vacant on December 31, 2018, following its inspection on October 26, 2018. It said the site is classified as regeneration land and has been vacant or idle for the last 12 months. The appeals process requires the planning authority to provide evidence of this fact.

Following a visit, An Bord’s inspector noted that the brownfield site “is not well maintained and can be easily accessed from a number of points. Areas of the site have attracted quite a degree of dumping and there is also evidence of fires.” However, the evidence of the time idle proved crucial.

“Even though it is likely and probable that the lands have been vacant or idle for the relevant time period I cannot be certain. For this reason alone the site should be removed from the register,” said the inspector.

The Bord determined that, based on the information before it, the site is not a vacant site within the meaning of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act, 2015, as amended. In its direction, it specifically noted “the absence of sufficient evidence to support the contention of the planning authority that the site was vacant and idle for the period of 12 months preceding the date of placing the site on the register”.