Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Adjournment Matter. - Schools Building Projects.
I welcome the Minister of State. I raise the matter of the need for the Minister for Education and Science to explain the reason for the delay in the purchase of a building site for the new Charleville national school, Tullamore, County Offaly because of my concern having been approached by parents of students attending the schools there. There appears to be undue delay on the matter.
In December 1999 the Department requested those involved in the Office of Public Works with the purchase of lands for schools to purchase a suitable site in Tullamore for the school. It is now mid-May 2003 and the site has not yet been purchased. The proposed site of 1.5 acres is the property of the Church of Ireland which requires the school urgently.
The Department has spent the years since 1999 trying to buy the site. Why has it taken 3.5 years to try to negotiate the sale of 1.5 acres of land in Tullamore? Is the Department or the Office of Public Works serious about the purchase of the site and are the landowners serious about its sale? Those suffering are the students who must attend an outdated and dilapidated school in Tullamore. They need a new school urgently. I hope the Minister of State is in a position to tell me that the matter has progressed.
Over the last 3.5 years an amount of property was bought for schools around the country. It puzzles me and the people of Tullamore affected by the delay as to the reason it has taken so long to purchase the site. I hope the Minister of State will give us some indication as to when it will be purchased. I am puzzled also that planning permission has already been granted.
We cannot understand the reason there has been such a delay in the purchase of the site. If there is a particular reason it has not been purchased, I hope the person responsible will come out into the open and tell us whether it is the seller who requires more than the Department is offering or the Department which is not prepared to pay the price requested. If that is the situation, we should look for another site as soon as possible. I look forward to a favourable reply from the Minister of State.
I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity of outlining to the House the current position of the Department of Education and Science on the proposed acquisition of a site for Charleville national school, Tullamore, County Offaly. The Minister for Education and Science decided to publish the 2003 schools building programme on the departmental website to give the maximum amount of information concerning the schools' capital investment programme to managers, boards of management, principals, parents, students and all other interested parties.
Before I address the site issue, I advise the Senator that the proposed large-scale building project for Charleville national school is listed in section 6 of the 2003 schools building programme on the Department's website at www.education.ie. The proposed project is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and has been assigned a "band 2" rating by the Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. However, primary school projects listed in sections 6 and 7 are not being authorised to progress beyond their current stage of architectural planning for the time being. The timing of when projects listed in these and other sections can progress to tender and construction will depend on the budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years.
In regard to the proposed acquisition of the site, the position is that the Department requested the Office of Public Works, which acts on its behalf in regard to site acquisitions generally, to negotiate the acquisition of a site for Charleville national school. The proposed acquisition of a site is ongoing and the Department is considering documentation from the Office of Public Works regarding a specific site. The Senator will appreciate that it would be not be appropriate at this stage to provide specific details in regard to the proposed acquisition of the site as to do so could prejudice the outcome of any further negotiations.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply and outlining the details. In regard to the proposed acquisition of the site, someone should answer questions given the length of time which has elapsed without a resolution of the issue. I ask the Minister of State to convey my concerns to the Department and that I be informed by letter when the site will be purchased.