Update: Narconon Trust, Ballivor

TO: All Trim MD Cllrs
FROM: Meath County Council Corporate Services

At the January meeting of Trim Municipal District, during a discussion on the proposed drug rehabilitation centre in Ballivor, the following queries were raised:

  1. Do the planning regulations require that a declaration/opinion issued in relation to a proposed development being determined as an exempted development form part of the planning file and therefore made available publicly/online?
  2. Why was the correspondence with Narconon Trust from September 2016 not made known to Councillors last December?

These queries were referred to the Planning Department and I include responses received below:

  1. There is no requirement in the legislation for publication of notice of Section 5 applications nor is there provision in the legislation for public submissions on such applications. The Act requires that details of any declaration issued by the Planning Authority shall be entered in the public register. The Act further specifies that “the register shall be kept at the offices of the Planning Authority”. Details of all Section 5 Declaration applications are entered on a publicly available register held in the Planning Department and this is available for inspection by any person. Details of these applications are not currently available on-line.
  2. The issue came to public attention following a media story in late November/early December 2017 which described a proposal by The Church of Scientology to establish a drug treatment centre in Ballivor. It is understood that an organisation linked to the Church of Scientology called Narconon had purchased the site sometime early in 2017. The focus of enquiries was on applications for planning permission and requests for formal or informal pre-planning by Narconon or the Church of Scientology. It was assumed, incorrectly as it now transpires, that any such approach would have happened in 2017 sometime after Narconon had purchased the site. No record was found of applications or contacts in that time period and the Councillors were informed in good faith in a briefing note on 14th December that we had no information.

It subsequently emerged on the basis of a wider search of records that Narconon Trust had submitted an application for a Section 5 Declaration in late August/early September 2016, some 6 months before they purchased the site and more than a year before the story came to public prominence. As soon as that information came to light details were passed on to public representatives and to the media.

It is acknowledged that, in the interim, Councillors attended a public meeting without knowledge of the 2016 application and this is regretted.