BARCHESTER, the nursing home chain backed by racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier, has proposed changes to zoning regulations in south Dublin that would permit the development of nursing homes in green-belt zones. The company is planning to open 20 nursing homes in Ireland.
Chaired by former Kerry Group executive Denis Brosnan, the company recently submitted its proposals to the authorities as part of the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council Draft Development Plan for 2010 to 2016.
It wants zoning regulations to be modified to allow nursing homes be developed on land zoned for agriculture, ensuring a better chance of acquiring sites than if they were competing with residential property developers.
Pat Nolan, deputy chairman of Barchester Ireland, pointed out that as nursing homes are not as profitable as apartments and houses, they should not be subject to the same planning regulations.
An ageing population, increasing life expectancy and an expected surge in the number of people reaching retirement age means the need for nursing home facilities and suitable residential accommodation is predicted to increase in the next 20 to 30 years.
"We know for a fact from studies and figures that there aren't enough nursing homes here. The number of people requiring nursing home care is going to mushroom in Ireland and we need to provide for this," he said.
The company has already invested €50m in its first Irish facility - Knightsbridge Village in Trim, Co Meath, – and plans to open one in south Dublin next year. Sites are also being considered in Cork, Belfast and Wicklow.
A planning application submitted earlier in the year for a 90-bed nursing home in Limerick was successful and is set to be Barchester's second Irish premises.
"Knightsbridge in Trim is the first of several but it's very untypical of what our immediate plans are. We want to increase the number of nursing homes in Ireland rather than the number of retirement villages and have about 20 up and running in the next six to seven years," said Nolan.
Barchester Ireland is the sister company of Barchester Healthcare, the fourth largest overall in the UK with 180 nursing homes, nearly 11,000 residents and 13,000 employees.