Plan for women-only rehab center run by church group in Waterford put on hold after objections

Plans have been put on hold for a women-only drug treatment center to be run by a new faith community in West Waterford following objections from local residents.

An appeal has been lodged with An Bord Pleanála against Waterford City and County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for Cladagh Residential Care Centre, 4km east of the village of Clashmore, Co Waterford.

The facility, which will house up to nine residents, will operate as a gated community overseen by three nuns or caregivers 24/7.

The treatment center is being planned by a Catholic religious group called the Refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who want to convert an existing skylight into a residential care center containing nine en-suite bedrooms.

The group also obtained permission to build an oratory and a three-bedroom house to accommodate the nuns who would operate the facility.

A total of 11 third-party submissions by local residents have been made on the development application, with some parties now appealing council’s decision to approve the project.

Residents have expressed concern that the proposed development will house “people with physical, psychological and emotional disorders” who could pose a threat to local residents.

Security issues

They said they had real security concerns about the center and believed vulnerable people might be better treated at a center in a large urban area.

They also raised questions about whether Refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had the necessary qualifications or experience to run the facility and what oversight would be provided by the HSE and the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqah).

While sympathetic to the backgrounds of people who might use the drug treatment center, locals have also expressed concern that it might attract undesirables such as drug dealers.

“This is an urban problem transferred to a rural area,” observed an opponent.

Locals have also expressed concern that the treatment center will harm the tourism potential of the nearby St Declan’s Way pilgrimage route.

It has been claimed that some parents have warned they will withdraw their children from nearby Ballycurrane National School if the treatment center is allowed to open.

Short-term residential treatment

In its application, the religious community said it offered a short-term residential treatment center for women in the early stages of recovery from addiction.

While most stays would be short, the group said the maximum time spent at the facility would be 26 weeks.

He said residents would not leave the buildings initially, but would have access to the gardens under the supervision of a caretaker as they recover.

The group said women using the facility would be offered “training, skills-based learning and life skills”.

He also claimed that the rural setting was key to providing the required level of “isolation and isolation” to aid recovery and healing, as medicine was too readily available in towns and villages.

The group said residents should also stay away from people they hurt or those who hurt them when they were going through difficult times in their lives.

He said the oratory, designed for the exclusive use of residents, could be used to accommodate family visits.

Waterford City and County Council agreed that the proposed use of the site was suitable for a rural location given its ‘seclusion and isolation’ pattern.

Council planners said the county’s development plan neither allowed nor prevented the site from being used for a drug treatment centre.

Plans for the center received backing from the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinane, who endorsed the project at a public meeting in 2019.

A decision on the appeal is due by the end of June 2022.

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