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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Mar 1998

Vol. 488 No. 7

Adjournment Debate. - Schools Building Projects.

Dr. Upton

I thank the Chair for the opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment which relates to the physical education hall at St. Mac Dara's community college in Templeogue. Anxiety regarding the construction of the hall has been ongoing for a number of years, but a certain level of progress has been made recently.

A formal commitment was given on 6 April 1995 by the then Minister for Education to initiate the planning process for the development. That was three years ago and the project has dragged on in the intervening period. A series of representations have been made by all the public representatives in the area and a number of statements and announcements have been made by various Ministers in recent years. Two issues arise. When will the project go to tender and when will construction commence?

I emphasise to the Minister of State that there is an inordinate level of frustration and irritation among the parents of students at the school. Some parents are particularly dismayed because they anticipated that the development would have been available for their children some years ago. However, their children have now left the school and did not have the benefit of the hall. There is a huge need for the facility in the area and I ask the Minister of State to give urgent consideration to the two questions which I pose on behalf of the parents and the community in Templeogue. When will the project go to tender and when will construction commence? I hope the Minister of State can give me a favourable response to these questions which are of major concern to the parents and the community.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the House my Department's position regarding the construction of a PE hall at the school. I wish to give some background details relating to the provision of a physical education hall at the school in question.

The school opened in September 1982 — the same year I entered the House — to cater for a long-term enrolment of 1,000 pupils. At that time, due to the exceptionally heavy demands on available capital resources, priority had to be given to the provision of essential teaching spaces. As a result, it was not possible to allocate funds towards the provision of a PE hall.

However, in 1996 it was decided to initiate the architectural planning for the facility. The outline sketch scheme was requested from the County Dublin VEC's design team in April 1996 and it was received in the building unit of my Department in September of that year. Additional technical work then had to be undertaken by the design team and this was submitted in early 1997.

The detailed design and contract documents were received by my Department in October 1997. Following examination by my Department's technical staff, it was clear that the cost plan for the hall was substantially in excess of the Department's upper limits and the County Dublin VEC's design team was requested to achieve reductions and bring the cost plan down to a level acceptable to my Department. The County Dublin VEC has recently forwarded additional information to my Department relating to the costs and this is being examined. As soon as the matter has been resolved, the project will be allowed to go to tender.

I emphasise that the PE hall at the school is one of a large volume of projects being dealt with by the technical staff of my Department. In these circumstances, delays in the planning process are inevitable. Because of the substantial and continuing demands on the capital allocation, cost controls must be rigidly applied in order to maximise the number of projects proceeding to construction. I am confident that the problem relating to cost in this case can be rapidly overcome so that the project can proceed to tender and then to construction as early as possible this year. I presume this is a satisfactory response for the Deputy. As he stated, many representations were made by the public representatives in the area about the project. The Department regards it as an important project and will do its utmost to ensure it is expedited.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.46 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 25 March 1998.