A DECISION by the board of An Bord Pleanala not to confer voluntary status on the University of Limerick (UL) is to cost the university more than €150,000.
The board overruled its inspector's decision to exempt UL from paying €154,000 demanded by Clare County Council after it found that the council had properly applied its development contribution scheme in the case.
Earlier this year, UL secured planning permission for development of an Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at Garraun, Clonlara, Co Clare, a project that included two performance theatres, music practice rooms, and computer and research suites.
As part of the decision, Clare County Council told UL to pay €304,000 in development contributions.
But UL appealed against this payment saying the council was wrong to exclude it from its development exemptions as the university was a voluntary body, registered as a charity trust.
UL said its voluntary status was accepted by the Revenue Commissioners and the academy was to be used by the people of Clare and Limerick as well as by its students.
But the council argued the academy building did not come under its definition of voluntary schemes as it would charge fees for courses taught there.
The council also said the academy was to be a venue for concerts and exhibitions, which would generate revenue through ticket sales, while the development would connect to existing public water and sewerage schemes.
In his report, the board inspector said the term "voluntary organisation" had not been defined in the Planning and Development Act, 2000, but it was likely UL came within this remit and should qualify for a full exemption from the council's development charge.
The inspector also ruled UL should be exempt from making a €150,000 contribution towards upgrading the local road network.
However, in its consideration of the inspector's report, the board said it did not accept UL came within the scope of the exemptions for voluntary organisations contained in the development contribution scheme and it considered the scheme was properly applied by the planning authority.
The board, however, ordered the removal of the demand for the €150,000 contribution for the road network as UL had already contributed €500,000 for a related development at its campus in Co Clare.
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