Seanad debates

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Schools Building Projects Status

10:30 am

Photo of Paul CoghlanPaul Coghlan (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, to the House.

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I am delighted to welcome the Minister back to the House to discuss a key issue not just for my area but also for south Dublin in general. It relates to the development of a permanent home for Stepaside Educate Together secondary school. As the Minister will be well aware, the school is currently co-located with Stepaside Educate Together national school in its new home in Belarmine in Stepaside. However, the school community - the teachers, parents, guardians, pupils and those living in the vicinity - are keen to get a clear idea when the school will move to its permanent home on the site identified by the Department.

Many things are at play in terms of acquisition, planning and tender. Mild concern is developing among the school community that the school is reaching absolute capacity in its temporary location with the national school and there is a serious need to make swift progress with the permanent development in the site identified. The school has a waiting list of about 70. When it is full, it will have more than 1,000 pupils in a co-educational facility under the auspices of Educate Together.

I know the school well. The Taoiseach visited it last autumn and he remarked how quickly this new school has ingratiated itself with the community and how it has engaged in so many activities. It is a wonderful part of south Dublin which I call my home. It is also a growing part of south Dublin where the population is rapidly exceeding the existing requirements in terms of national schools. We have seen a number of new national schools being opened. Two more are to come on stream, including Goatstown Educate Together national school, which will feed into this secondary school in due course. This morning I seek an update on how the school is proceeding.

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator for raising the matter as it allows me the opportunity to provide an update to the House on the provision of a permanent school building for Stepaside Educate Together secondary school, a co-educational school under the patronage of Educate Together.

The school building project for Stepaside Educate Together secondary school is included in my Department's capital programme which is being delivered under the national development plan. The brief is to provide a new 1,000-pupil post primary school plus a four-classroom special education needs unit together with all ancillary accommodation on a site off the Ballyogan Road adjacent to Leopardstown racecourse.

The project was assigned to my Department's design and build delivery programme in August 2018 following acquisition of the site. This delivery programme uses a professional external project management team to progress the project through the stages of architectural planning, tendering and construction. Architectural planning commenced immediately and an application for planning permission was lodged with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in December 2018 following pre-planning meetings with the council.

A notification of decision to grant permission subject to 18 conditions was received by the Department on 13 June 2019. Two of these conditions requiring the provision of an extensive public greenway on third party land were subsequently the subject of a first party appeal by the Department to An Bord Pleanála. The decision on this appeal was due to be received this month, but has now been extended by An Bord Pleanála until 19 January 2020.The next step in the progression of this school building project is to proceed to tender and construction stages, which will happen as soon as the appeal decision is received. Stepaside Educate Together secondary school is currently sharing a new school building with Stepaside Educate Together national school under a temporary sharing arrangement. As enrolments in both schools continue to grow, it is expected that alternative temporary accommodation on the permanent site will be required to accommodate Stepaside Educate Together secondary school from September 2020. Temporary accommodation provisions are currently being arranged by the officials in my Department, in conjunction with the project management team.

I want to assure the Senator that we will do everything to ensure that these temporary facilities will be provided with the utmost urgency.

Photo of Neale RichmondNeale Richmond (Fine Gael)
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I have no supplementary questions other than to sincerely thank the Minister for that detailed and full reply and I look forward to working further on this project.

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister and we will await the arrival of the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.