Adjournment Debate. - Schools Building Projects.

I wish to share time with Deputy Coveney. The Minister of State will be aware that Ballincollig community school is one of five schools currently being provided with new school facilities under the public private partnership contract. A particular set of circumstances have arisen in the application of the contract in Ballincollig community school in that the existing hall-gymnasium which is a perfectly functional and useable building, is set for demolition with no new building being erected in its place. The contract providers want to provide a new gymnasium and subsequently re-adjust the rates charged for outside community groups who use the facility. As the Minister of State can imagine this is causing a great deal of community dissent.

If the Minister of State and the Government are interested in making public private partnerships work – he will be aware of my party's dubiousness regarding the particular application – they should meet the public in Ballincollig. Ballincollig, with a population of over 15,000, is more than justified in having two gymnasiums.

I hope the flexibility which exists in schools building projects conventionally put together is something that might be applied to this new once-off arrangement. In responding to my reservations and those of my colleagues in the constituency, I hope the Minister of State and the Government will take account of the concerns which exist in Ballincollig and the need for a resolution which takes account of the demands of the area and the much-needed community facilities.

I thank Deputy Boyle for sharing his time. This is a serious issue. Deputy Boyle and I have been to community meetings in Ballincollig and listened to the concerns outlined by him to the House.

I differ from Deputy Boyle in some ways in that I think the public private partnership route can have positive results for education and fast-tracking building projects. However, I think a mistake has been made in this case. An opportunity is being missed. It seems unbelievable that we are demolishing, in a town of close to 20,000 people, a perfectly satisfactory gymnasium. The people who use it claim it is one of the best gymnasiums in County Cork. The basketball club, which has a huge membership, is anxious to make this its home club venue. The building is being demolished as part of the public private partnership contract with a view to building a new school with a new gymnasium. We are trying to make the case at this late stage in the process that the Minister consider talking to Jarvis which was awarded the contract in 2000 to see whether it is possible to build a new school and a new gymnasium while, at the same time, keeping the old gymnasium for use by the community. I have talked to them to see if it is possible at this late stage to build a new school, with the new gym, while keeping the old gym facility for the use of the community. That should be possible as the old gym is in an isolated section of the site. With imagination and practical application, a result that keeps the community and the school happy is possible.

The history of Ballincollig Community School has been a successful one in the context of the sharing of facilities between the school and the community. It is a shame, when we should be celebrating a fantastic project for Ballincollig, that this conflict has divided the community and that a gym which has been used successfully for a number of years will be demolished. I hope the Minister has some positive news and has not shut the door entirely.

I thank Deputies Boyle and Coveney for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the Department of Education and Science position on this matter. As the Deputies are aware, the new Ballincollig Community School, procured under the public private partnership model, includes the most up-to-date sports facilities. These consist of a first class gymnasium, fitness area and outdoor basketball and tennis courts. Following an EU-wide tender competition, the contract for the construction of a bundle of five post-primary schools, including Ballincollig, under the first education public private partnership project was signed in November 2001 with Jarvis Projects Limited.

Under the PPP procurement model, outputs are developed for the project and interested consortia submit bids including a design that will meet the Department's requirements. Following the submission of bids for this project, evaluation groups were established to assess the bids under design and technical, services, finance and legal issues. This process involved a detailed examination and evaluation of each bidder's proposal.

It is important in the case of the Ballincollig school that none of the three bidders considered the retention and refurbishment of the existing sports hall as part of their design solution for a number of significant reasons, including the existing roof covering being made of asbestos, the shrinkage of upright pillars, dampness in sections of the building and the cost of renovation of the existing dressing rooms and shower area.

The Jarvis bid included the removal of the existing gymnasium and the provision of six new outdoor basketball and tennis courts on that site. Therefore, following a thorough evaluation of the Jarvis bid, it was selected as the preferred bidder for the grouped school project and a binding legal contract was signed with the Department of Education and Science. The Deputies should also note that this project went through the planning process and full planning permission was granted that included the removal of the existing hall. I understand that there were no planning objections at the time.

I assure the Deputies that the new facilities being provided will be of the highest standard and the school board of management, in tandem with Jarvis, has indicated that it will work closely with the local community to ensure the widest possible use of the new facilities.