Cork student accommodation being offered to tourists, says hotels lobby
Irish Hotels Federation seeks to block use of Amnis House for year-round short-term letting
UCC (above): Students protested in September 2018 over the cost of accommodation at Amnis House. Prices this year per room range from €228 to €244 per week.
The IHF has sought a ruling from An Bord Pleanála on whether the use of Amnis House on Western Road in Cork for year-round, short-term letting represents a material change of use of the building which requires planning permission.
The owner of Amnis House, a 30-unit student accommodation facility which opened last year, denied it has ever been used for short-term letting on a year-round basis. Western Road Student Ireland claimed the IHF was seeking clarification about a “hypothetical and totally irrelevant question”.
The hotel industry lobby referred the case for adjudication after complaining that Amnis House was advertising short-term lets on the Booking. com website last April. It claimed the website listed Amnis House as one of its bestsellers in Cork and had been welcoming guests since February 2019.
The IHF said the facility was also listed on another website, Expedia, where it was described as an aparthotel available for short-term rental between June and August.
Although Amnis House is still listed on both websites, bookings are no longer available. All units for the current 2019/20 college year are listed as sold out.
The representative body of hotels had called on Cork City Council to instruct the owners of Amnis House to refrain from advertising it for short-term letting with immediate effect, as it constituted unauthorised development.
The federation, which says it represents more than 90 members in the Cork area, noted that the grant of planning permission for the development of student accommodation at Amnis House imposed a condition that no change of use including for other types of residential accommodation was permitted without approval by Cork City Council or An Bord Pleanála.
The IHF pointed out that under the Cork City Council Development Plan 2015, any change of use from student accommodation requires planning permission.
The plan also states any such applications will generally be restricted unless it can be adequately demonstrated that there is an overprovision of student accommodation in Cork city.
However, Western Road Student Ireland called for the case to be dismissed on the basis the IHF had provided no evidence that Amnis House was being used for year-round short-term letting.
Outside term times
It also maintained that student accommodation can be used as tourist accommodation outside academic term times under planning legislation, which is why Amnis House was available to rent on a short-term basis between June and August.
In a statement, the IHF said it supports a level playing field between all tourism accommodation providers “including ensuring compliance with legal obligations in relation to planning laws, taxation, regulation and quality assurance for guests”.
The IHF said any unauthorised use of accommodation, including student accommodation, for holiday letting without planning permission was a serious concern.
“All accommodation providers, irrespective of category, must comply with relevant planning regulations, and in cases where a breach occurs the local authority should take enforcement action,” the IHF added.
Amnis House was the focus of a protest by students from UCC and Cork Institute of Technology in September 2018 over the cost of rooms at the facility, which ranged from €210 to €225 per week. This year the price of rooms is ranging from €228 to €244 per week.
A decision on the case is expected later this month.