University of Limerick in planning row over ‘bizarre’ student accommodation purchase

The main building at the University of Limerick.

THE UNIVERSITY of Limerick (UL) is in hot water with planners from Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) over the use of properties purchased by the institution for the purposes of student accommodation.

UL announced the 20-property development Rhebogue in August 2022 and has been using it as a student village since October of last year. Now, LCCC has told the university that it does not have the correct planning permission to do so.

The development, built by Silvergrove Developments, is on a site in Rhebogue approximately two kilometres from UL’s main Castletroy campus.

Now, council planners have said that the developer and UL that they do not have the correct planning permission to use the properties for student accommodation.

Silvergrove Developments currently has a planning application before Limerick City and County Council for retention of an amended site boundary on the site.

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However, in a letter sent to Silvergrove Developments, council planners said that they have become aware that the development in question is being used for the purposes of student accommodation.

Planners stated that “as this is a change of use, planning permission is therefore required.”

The developer is also required to submit a justification for the change of use and show that the development is in compliance with government guidelines relating to student accommodation.

In addition, the chairperson for the Rhebogue Residents Association, Sarah Beasley, has called for an immediate investigation into the purchase of the development by UL.

Ms Beasley said that the situation surrounding the development is “bizarre”.

“Limerick County Council has confirmed in writing that the developer was not granted permission for these houses, but UL has gone ahead and bought them anyway. This is bizarre at best,” she said.

“I have written to the planning authorities in Limerick who have confirmed that the development is unauthorised. This is totally unorthodox. We have the spectre of residents throughout this county and country being rapped on the knuckles for even the smallest planning infringement and yet here we have a large institution apparently thumbing its nose at the planning authorities.”

Ms Beasley also said that residents of Rhebogue had raised their issues with the council on numerous occasions, claiming that the council had not taking their concerns seriously.

“There is a glaring lack of accountability around this whole issue and we’re not going to let this matter rest. We have been through the mill over this issue for the past two years, we have been working tirelessly,” Ms Beasley said.

“UL cannot behave in a cavalier manner like this, they are literally making a mockery of the planning laws and we will hold them to account.”

In a statement issued to the Limerick Post, a UL spokeswoman said the institution’s subsidiary accommodation management company, Plassey Trust Company (PTC), bought the houses with full planning permission.

“UL has been very active in seeking solutions to the ongoing severe shortage of accommodation, which is a national issue.”

“The houses were constructed by a private developer with full planning permission in place. They were then purchased by PTC, which own and manage UL’s on-campus residences and engage with Limerick City and County Council on any issues that may arise,” the UL spokeswoman concluded.