Businesses challenge homeless accommodation decision

Baggot Street firms say McVerry Trust should not have been granted exemption

The Peter McVerry Trust was  granted a waiver by Dublin City Council from having to seek planning permission to use 99 and 100 Lower Baggot Street for 74 emergency accommodation beds. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

The Peter McVerry Trust was granted a waiver by Dublin City Council from having to seek planning permission to use 99 and 100 Lower Baggot Street for 74 emergency accommodation beds. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Baggot Street businesses in Dublin have lodged a High Court challenge in relation to the use of two Georgian town houses, formerly a boutique hotel, for homeless accommodation.

The Peter McVerry Trust was last month granted a waiver by Dublin City Council from having to seek planning permission to use 99 and 100 Lower Baggot Street, previous partly occupied by Latchfords Townhouse, for 74 emergency accommodation beds.

The charity had argued planning permission was not required as the buildings would still be used as a hotel and the only change would be the “socio-economic class” of the inhabitants.

The council acknowledged the charity’s submission that “no works are proposed to the building” that “regular hotel” services would be provided and “no care will be provided to occupants of the rooms” and granted the planning exemption.

Two neighbouring businesses, HT Financial Services Limited at 98 Baggot Street Lower and Get the Tables Limited at 100 Baggot Street Lower, have initiated judicial review proceedings seeking the quashing of the council’s decision.

In documents lodged in the High Court this week, legal representatives of the businesses argue the building “does not have an authorised hotel use extending across all of the buildings contained within the site”. They claim the planning history of the site shows “authorised serviced apartment use, residential use, restaurant use, the use of the land as a workshop and store and the refusal of the planning permission for the use of part of the lands as a hotel”.

The trust’s application for the planning exemption made “no reference to how this planning history can be reconciled with the assertion that the premises has an existing established use for hotel use/guesthouse use”, the documents state.

‘Material interest’

The council should not have granted the planning exemption “where necessary information had not been provided” the document states.

It also claims that because the trust would be providing homeless services on behalf of the council, the council had a “legitimate and material interest” in the outcome of the planning decision and should have refereed the matter to An Bord Pleanála.

The council, in response to queries from The Irish Times, said: “We will not be commenting as this matter is sub judice.”

Independent city Cllr Mannix Flynn said council officials and the trust had not engaged in consultation with the local community, businesses or with councillors in relation to the development.

“When it comes to the planning process the Peter McVerry Trust has to be treated like any other developer,” said Cllr Flynn.

However, he said if they were providing a hotel with no homeless services, that would not be acceptable either.

“Offering no services is just warehousing homeless people. No one wants to see people in tents, but we are the whole time jumping up and down saying homeless people shouldn’t be in hotels, yet people were being ghosted in here without any consultation,” he said. “It is embarrassing that this should be happening at Christmas time.”

The Peter McVerry Trust said it would not be making a comment on the matter.