Seanad debates

Thursday, 9 December 2004

Adjournment Debate.

Site Acquisitions.

5:00 pm

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, for attending to reply to this matter. It is one in which he has an interest. I am hopeful his interest means we will be able to reach a successful conclusion on this very important issue in our area.

The Minister of State will be aware of the need to construct St. Patrick's national school at Diswellstown. For a number of years, the school has been situated in temporary accommodation at St. Mochta's school which has caused a great deal of hardship to parents who must ferry their children to and from that location. It is also leading to traffic congestion on the roads in the area. More importantly, people need to have a school in the area in which they live. The people of Diswellstown have been without one for several years. The same problem exists all over Dublin. In the growing area of Dublin 15, thousands of houses have been built but the infrastructure to service them has not been provided in parallel. The Minister of State knows the problems we have had with delays in providing schools.

Our concern in Diswellstown is that the site on which the school is to be built has not yet been purchased by the Department. Perhaps, the Minister of State will give me good news and tell me otherwise today. According to my information the Department is not at fault. If it is the case that the developer has delayed on the delivery of this and other sites in the area, his behaviour should not be tolerated. I hope the information I have is incorrect. As full planning permission has been granted, when will the deal on the site be concluded and when will construction commence to provide the school at the earliest possible date?

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Terry for raising the matter. I am aware of her great interest in St. Patrick's national school. I share it not only as a Deputy of the Dublin West constituency but as a Minister of State at the Department of Education and Children. I am glad Senator Terry has given me the opportunity to record the current position on the provision of a new school building for St. Patrick's national school in Diswellstown, Dublin 15.

The school is temporarily located in the former St. Mochta's school building in Porterstown. St. Patrick's will be the second school for the parish. The Department is aware of the urgent need for the new school building. A new 24-classroom facility was listed to proceed to tender and construction as part of the 2004 school building programme and provision was made for it in the Estimates. The date for completion at the time of the funding allocation was September 2005. Officers of the Department have done everything in their power to meet that deadline. Tenders for the detailed design and construction of the new school have been received and are being evaluated by officials. As a matter of law, a tender must be decided on within weeks. Planning permission for the new school was granted by Fingal County Council, but, as Senator Terry will know, this was the subject of a third part appeal to An Bord Pleanála. I thank Fingal County Council for the expedition with which it dealt with the matter. The board determined the appeal a short time ago and the result was positive from the Department's point of view. Permission to proceed with the building of the school was granted subject to certain modifications to the original plan.

Senator Terry rightly asked if there had been similar delays by the developer in question in other parts of the city.

I have looked into that matter and the Department is not aware of any delay, similar to the one in this case, regarding the acquisition of other sites from the vendor in question.

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which purchases sites for new schools on behalf of the Department, had identified a suitable site for the new school building. The acquisition of the site has been at conveyancing stage for some time.

I am aware of the urgent need to build a school on this site. I am very concerned at the length of time it has taken to complete the conveyancing process. I assure the House that the urgent need to complete the necessary formalities has been stressed to the solicitors acting for the vendor.

The Chief State Solicitor's office, which is acting on behalf of the OPW and the Minister for Education and Science, has been waiting for replies from the solicitors to the vendor. I can now confirm to the House that the solicitors to the vendor responded to a number of those queries this afternoon and that a meeting to discuss all other outstanding matters is scheduled for next Monday afternoon.

The Department is intent on securing the site for the school as soon as possible. When this has been done, the provision of a school building will proceed as a matter of urgency. The Department will work with the school authorities to put in place alternative strategies to accommodate the pupils, if required, for September 2005. I do not believe any such strategy would necessarily involve the full school year but I thank Senator Terry for raising this issue. Any delay in this matter, since the granting of the planning permission by Fingal County Council last summer, cannot be laid at the door of the Department of Education and Science or the school authorities who have worked hard together to progress this particular project as quickly as possible.

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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I am happy with the Minister's response.