Thursday, 25 January 2018
Schools Building Projects Status
I thank the Minister for coming to the House to take this debate. It is no surprise that I am bringing up the issue again. I have discussed it on the floor of the Chamber and elsewhere with the Minister during the past 18 months. I last raised it in October through a Commencement matter, at which stage the Minister said a site had been identified by the Department and that it was proceeding with the matter.
I do not intend to take any longer than I need. The Minister knows of my deep connection to the school and my extraordinary desire to see it move ahead. I am seeking an update on the search to find a permanent home for Stepaside Educate Together secondary school. The school is vital to the entire area, but when it is complete and full, it will be a major asset to what is the third fastest growing townland in the country.
The Department has been working closely with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council under the memorandum of understanding on the acquisition of a permanent site. Engagement with the council commenced as far back as 2012. The Senator will appreciate that in this highly urban area there is limited availability of suitable sites. Coupled with the high demand for land generally in the area, this has led to a protracted site acquisition process. I am pleased to inform the Senator, however, that a suitable permanent site option has been identified and that a formal offer has been made to the landowner to acquire the site. My Department is discussing the heads of terms, with a view to obtaining agreement. Unfortunately, owing to commercial sensitivities, it is not possible to disclose the location of the site until formal confirmation of the Department's offer is received. However, the school patron, Educate Together, will be informed of the proposed location as soon as it is possible to do so.
Agreement on the acquisition of the site will be subject to agreement on the heads of terms, including some technical design issues, on which negotiations are under way. Subject to agreement being obtained, it is envisaged that preliminary design work on the school building project can commence while the site acquisition process is being completed.
The Senator will probably know the details from the previous debate, but there is a planning issue that remains unresolved.