Niall Collins misled Dáil in statement defending falsehoods in planning application – council confirms homeownership was consideration

Niall Collins misled the Dáil in his statement defending the falsehoods in his 2001 planning application.

Collins in the application claimed to be living in his parents’ house and didn’t declare his homeownership. In his statement to the Dáil last week he didn’t address why he claimed this, only saying that failing to declare his homeownership “was immaterial to the planning adjudication process”.

This isn’t correct – Limerick City and County Council this week issued a revised statement to The Ditch and admitted that applicants’ homeownership was a consideration at the time Collins made his application.

The Ditch has also discovered a number of unsuccessful planning applications in which existing homeownership was a consideration for refusal.

Though Micheál Martin backed Collins after the junior minister’s statement to the Dáil late last week, Labour leader Ivana Bacik called on Collins to answer questions on the issues his statement failed to address. “What he went on to say failed to address the key question as to where he was living at the time the planning application was made,” she said.

Homeownership was a consideration confirms council

After The Ditch’s report that Niall Collins falsely claimed in a planning application to be living in his parents’ house, the junior minister was forced to address the Dáil last Thursday.

Rather than address why he said he lived with his parents and didn’t declare his homeownership, Collins instead said it didn’t matter.

“The matter of whether I owned a house with my wife near Limerick city which was outside the pressure area was not an issue of consideration or policy at the time under that county development plan, and whether I had stated that was immaterial to the planning adjudication process 23 years ago,” he said.

Limerick City and County Council however has confirmed to The Ditch that this isn’t the case.

When asked whether planning applicants’ homeownership was a material consideration when determining whether they should receive planning permission, a council spokesperson said:

“The ownership of a home is one of many considerations when assessing a planning application. In 2001, this would have seen applications assessed on the location of the home owned, be they in an identified pressure area or not.”

The Ditch made repeated requests t​​o the council to confirm this after the discovery of a number of planning appeals where applicants were refused permission partly because they declared their homeownership – unlike Collins.

These unsuccessful applicants were unable to demonstrate their housing need to the council.

'It is clear that the applicant already has a property'

Just like Collins, Patrickswell residents Brendan and Celia Cawley wanted to build a home a few kilometres outside the town. Like Collins, they already owned a home and had lived in the area prior to 1990. A difference between the Cawleys and Collins was that former disclosed their home ownership.

Their 2002 application was refused, with Limerick County Council deciding,​​ “The applicant does not come within the criteria of housing need so the development would contravene settlement policy.”

In an appeal to An Bord Pleanála (ABP’s), the planning authority also refused permission. ABP’s inspector noted the Cawleys’ homeownership in his report, concluding, “There is no evidence of functional need for this dwelling in the countryside.”

In January 2003 ABP refused Sean Conway permission to build a new home in Mungret, county Limerick for his family. Conway said his family included an asthmatic child whom he said needed a house with “a dust-free environment” and “increased ventilation".

The inspector’s report considered Conway’s homeownership.

“It is clear that the applicant already has a property in the area and I do not consider that the need to ensure a dust-free environment by incorporating hardwood floors and increased ventilation is sufficient indication of need for constructing a house in such a pressure area,” it reads.

Limerick mother Christine Buckley was also unsuccessful.

In February 2000 she was refused permission to build her daughter a home in Castleconnell, county Limerick. Her daughter was studying in Dublin at the time but like Collins had resided in the area prior to 1990.

The local authority accepted that “proposed development does meet the qualifying criteria for housing development that is in the pressure area” but refused permission on the grounds that it does “not come within the scope of the housing need criteria”, according to documents obtained from ABP.

“Her daughter is a third-level student at present and in this regard I fail to see how this could be considered to be an essential housing need to reside in this location… there is no genuine housing need for a dwelling house at this location and on that basis, non-essential housing should not be permitted,” wrote the ABP inspector in her July 2000 report. The board agreed and refused permission.

When asked why he misled the Dáil in his statement, Collins declined to comment. Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil, when asked whether they were aware that Collins misled the Dáil, did likewise.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors