Embattled junior minister Niall Collins has refused to explain how he secured an extension of time to planning permission for his house.
Earlier this week The Ditch reported that Collins claimed in a 2001 planning application he lived in his parents’ house – this wasn’t the case. He failed to address this allegation in his statement to the Dáil yesterday.
The Ditch can now report further anomalies in the same planning file.
Just a day after Collins said construction work would start on his new home, the Limerick County TD declared in writing that “extensive roadway” had been excavated and that “construction of (the) dwelling was substantially commenced”. In effect Collins, an elected councillor at the time, was suggesting that these works were carried out in just one day.
He made the claims in correspondence requesting an extension to his planning permission – which was soon to run out.
A senior construction source, when asked if this work would be possible in 24 hours, told The Ditch, “I fucking doubt it, unless it is a Lego house.”
‘Substantial works’ in 24 hours
In 2006 Niall Collins sought to amend his controversial 2001 planning permission and sought the OK to increase the size of the house and build two stables at the site in Patrickswell, county Limerick.
In June of that year Limerick County Council granted permission for the proposed changes.
Collins however found himself running out of time to build the house as his original planning permission was due to expire in January 2007.
Under planning legislation, local authorities will only extend applicants’ planning permission where “substantial works” have already been carried out.
On June 27, 2006 Collins sent a standard notification form to the council confirming he would commence construction works on 17 July, 2006.
Bizarrely just one day after construction works had supposedly begun, he submitted an application to the council for extension of permission time in which he declared that “extensive roadway” had been “excavated” and that “construction of the dwelling (had) substantially commenced”.
“I hereby… declare that the foregoing particulars are correct to the best of my knowledge,” reads the form signed by Collins on 18 July, 2006.
A week later the council decided to extend permission for two years, writing that the fact “substantial works” had been completed was central to the decision.
“Given that substantial works have been carried out on the application, the planning authority is agreeable to extending the duration of the permission for two years,” reads the Limerick county secretary correspondence to Collins dated 24 July, 2006.
Collins was elected to Limerick County Council in 2004 where he remained until his election to the Dáil in 2007.
He declined to comment.