I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Tá an áthas orm teacht os comhair an Tí inniu leis an Bhille tábhachtach seo. Seo é an chéad uair bheith ag tabhairt reachtaíocht ós comhar na Dála mar Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta agus tuigim go bhfuil seo an-thábachtach ar fad domsa agus dar ndóigh don Taoiseach.
I am particularly pleased to bring the Grangegorman Development Agency Bill before the House. It is a particular privilege for me that this is my first piece of legislation to introduce before the House as Minister for Education and Science. I have a personal interest in this legislation, having spent six years actively involved in the Dublin Institute of Technology, having been chairman of the Dublin College of Catering for some years and on the boards of two of the other colleges, as well as on the governing authority of the Dublin Institute of Technology. I recognise as much as anyone else in this House the contribution which that institute has made and continues to make to education not just in the city of Dublin but to Ireland as a whole. It is the largest education provider in the State. It is a significant institute of education but its activities are scattered across a number of different campuses throughout the city. The Bill is, therefore, an important steppingstone in terms of the development of a new education and health campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology. I know all Members of the House, the education sector and the wider community in Grangegorman will welcome it.
In December 1999 the Government decided that the Department of Education and Science would purchase 65 acres of the 73 acre Grangegorman site from the Eastern Regional Health Authority and that the new Dublin Institute of Technology community campus would be housed there. In May 2001 the Taoiseach, who has taken a personal interest in this development, established an interdepartmental working group with a view to examining the project and reporting back to Cabinet with its recommendations. In July 2001 the group appointed consultants to carry out a strategic review of the issues associated with the development of the Grangegorman site on its behalf.
The consultancy report was delivered in November 2001. The strategic conclusions and recommendations it contained included that the Grangegorman site is a unique and valuable public asset and should be developed in an integrated and sustainable manner; that an integrated site plan should be prepared with a view to securing outline planning permission; that the health care and educational requirements could be developed on a phased basis; that the affordability of the project should be determined at the outset and, therefore, the Government should determine the broad budgetary parameters for a phase one development; and that a Grangegorman development company should be established to project manage the development and determine the type of procurement to be employed. In April 2002 the Government decided that a statutory Grangegorman development agency would be established to commence work on an integrated urban design and land use framework plan for the Grangegorman site and to manage the development of the site as agent for the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Departments involved.
In light of its size and location — a 73 acre site virtually in the heart of the city, located within walking distance of the capital's main street — the Grangegorman site is a unique and valuable public asset of strategic importance to Dublin city as a whole and must be developed in an integrated and sustainable manner. Due to the fact that it is located in a densely populated residential area, development of the site will require great sensitivity. The Bill before the House provides for setting up the Grangegorman development agency to undertake the development of the site as a location for education, health and other purposes.
In examining the possible uses of this strategic site, the Government took account not only of the needs of DIT but of the need to regenerate this underdeveloped area of Dublin city. The Government is conscious that the integration of the proposed development with the existing community would produce benefits beyond the actual Grangegorman site.
DIT can trace its origins to 1887 and the foundation of technical education in Ireland. The institute was created in 1992, subsuming a number of higher education institutions previously administered under the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee. During the past ten years the organisation has gone through an active process of invention, moulding individual site-bound institutions into a single academic body. The strength of these structures was recognised in 1998 with the award of independent degree granting powers, up to and including doctorates.
DIT offers a combination of academic, professional, applied and technological education, from apprentice-based training, through certificate, diploma and degree courses to postgraduate masters and doctoral students. Outside of direct school intake, DIT has an extensive range of continuing and professional development courses in a variety of formats, catering in large part to mature students. The range, from apprentice up, and the variety of courses has meant that DIT has been particularly successful at attracting students from all strata of society.
The applied and technological bases of many programmes means DIT courses are firmly rooted in many key areas of the economy, providing educated graduates and a unique level of expertise. This has fostered a close interaction with industry in specific disciplines. Industry-specific research centres and active innovation and incubation activities strengthen these industrial links. Growth of research activities in targeted niche areas of expertise has allowed DlT to compete successfully for funding under various Government programmes and on the wider EU stage.
Currently, DIT is spread over 39 buildings on 30 sites throughout Dublin. Most Deputies will be familiar with the institute's Bolton Street, Kevin Street and Aungier Street premises. However, a considerable number of smaller rented spaces are also in use. The cost of rent alone amounts to €4.15 million per annum. There are clearly serious operational inefficiencies in seeking to manage and operate a major institution such as DIT over such a wide variety of locations. These not only militate severely against operational effectiveness but have adverse cost implications in a wide variety of areas, namely, security, porterage, heating, lighting, administration, registration, records, support services, dining arrangements, library, intercommunication, etc. The institute currently has seven libraries, eight admissions offices, seven examination offices and ten canteens. A major benefit of consolidation would be a significant increase in the quality and scope of operational service that could be offered on campus within existing budgetary parameters.
The limited space available to the institute is compounded by the current condition of some of its premises. The institute's Bolton Street and Kevin Street facilities require refurbishment and modernisation. The cost of this work alone is estimated at €100 million.
The poor quality of much of the existing DIT building stock and overall infrastructure has hampered the institute in responding to national manpower needs. The number of students entering higher education in Ireland grew substantially in the past decade. Between 1994 and 2002 student numbers in higher education increased from 90,000 to 127,000. During this period, the institute experienced record numbers of applications and has consistently remained in one of the top three positions in respect of overall applications. Space restrictions imposed on the institute have meant that it has not been in a position to fully respond to this demand. The current educational and research provision of the institute is, as stated earlier, delivered from 30 locations across the greater Dublin area. The institute currently occupies a total site area of approximately 11 acres. No other comparable higher education institution in the State has such a restricted and fragmented site area.
Of greatest significance for DIT is the level of educational efficiency and effectiveness that can be achieved, through consolidation of its many sites on a single campus, in terms of the development and delivery of its programmes, fostering of cross-disciplinary programmes in line with emerging trends, developing multidisciplinary research and having the physical capacity to build on its research initiatives. Furthermore, the existence of a single campus setting will enhance its presence and expand its alliances with industry in a variety of areas — consultancy, training, research — and overall through the creation of a learning environment. Achieving efficiency and effectiveness in these areas is critical for DIT in seeking to meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive higher education environment.
A range of reports — including the Report of the Task Force on the Physical Sciences, published by Forfás in 2002, the Science Technology and Innovation Advisory Council, published in 1995, the Report of the Review Committee on lost Secondary Education and Training Places, published in 1999, and the Technology Foresight Ireland Report prepared by the Irish Council for Science and Technology Innovation — all emphasise the strategic nature of science and technology to the Irish economy. It is a mainstay of Government policy and critical to the economic sustainability of the country. For more than a century, the faculties of science, engineering and the built environment have played a key role providing graduates in mathematics, computer sciences, physics, chemistry, engineering, technology, architecture and biology to underpin the science and technology sectors within the economy. In the past 30 years, economic development has been strongly based on encouraging inward investment of high technology companies with major success. The most recent re-orientation towards high cost, high value added industries in the science and technology sectors will make further demands on higher education to deliver the quality of graduate to meet these challenges.
DIT's commitment to this strategy is reflected in the fact that 45% of the degree programmes on offer through the institute are science and technology-based.
The move to Grangegorman will provide the basic research infrastructure, allowing the institute to optimise the resources available and to maximise their exploitation. As the equipment and resources for research, particularly in science and technology, becomes increasingly expensive, the opportunities to share equipment across multidisciplinary teams will be greatly facilitated on a single site. Opportunities for new and emerging activities will be greatly increased and a more efficient use of space and facilities can be implemented as groups and activities expand and contract over time. The institute has identified strategic areas for growth and explicit provision for growth has been made on the new campus. The DIT has traditionally supplied top class graduates to the tourism industry, which continues to expand and is of major importance to the State. DIT will also expand in this area.
The Grangegorman campus will bring together and cluster research activity within the institute in a highly visible and coherent manner. The increase in prominence of research and its associated infrastructure as a central activity of a third level institution is one of the greatest changes to occur in third level education. The opportunity to design a new campus offers a unique opportunity for research facilities to be designed as an integral part of the core campus, rather than tacked on to the periphery as is the cash with older institutions. The DIT strategic brief for the new campus strongly articulates that research should be a clear and visible up-front activity to signal its centrality to the mission of the institute, strengthen the links between research and the core undergraduate courses and encourage undergraduate students to continue to postgraduate research.
Government policy has identified research, underpinning the move to a knowledge-based economy, as one of the key strategies for future economic growth and development. This is supported at EU level by the agreement to increase research spending from a little more than 2% to 3% of GDP. Programmes such as the programme for research in third level institutions, the Science Foundation of Ireland and other initiatives such as those outlined in the Forfás annual report, 2002 Review and 2003 Outlook, underline the Government's commitment to achieving these goals. The ultimate requirement is for a ready supply and up-skilling of graduate and post graduate knowledge workers.
The need to acquire this expertise has been recognised in publications such as Baseline assessment of the public research system in Ireland in the areas of Biotechnology and ICT and by the award of major funding from the PRTLI and SFI programmes. DIT has received four major awards amounting to more than €8 million under SFI. These research activities are complemented by 29 full-time and 12 part-time taught postgraduate programmes, of which five are new programmes to be introduced in 2003. Progress in research has been severely hampered by a lack of space and suitable infrastructure. The distributed nature of the institute has militated against the pooling of resources, and the exploitation of new and emerging cross-disciplinary fields of study.
Some of the work is "blue skies" in nature whilst much of it is applied and is conducted with and-or for industry. The following examples give an insight into the research and innovation activities currently taking place at DIT and hint at some of the exciting opportunities that are coming down the line; geospatial data research team, vision sciences research group and digital media centre.
The Bill makes provision for an agency to provide a cohesive planning and implementation framework for the Grangegorman site. The functions of the agency are detailed and appropriate to its task because of the nature, importance and the size of the project. Part 2 provides that the primary function of the agency will be to promote the Grangegorman site as a location for education, health and other facilities and to co-ordinate the development or redevelopment of the site. This part also enables the agency to enter arrangements to exploit research, development or consultancy work undertaken by or on behalf of the agency.
The present estimated cost of developing the DIT campus is approximately €900 million. However, this is a preliminary estimate. The cost will depend on start dates, phasing and the type of procurement to be used. The agency will be required to prepare full costings as part of the development master plan and to decide on the best form of procurement in consultation with the National Development Finance Agency.
It was originally envisaged that the DIT campus would be developed on a phased basis. While it was anticipated that the initial phase would be financed through my Department with Exchequer funds, the agency will now examine the most advantageous funding options available in consultation with the National Development Finance Agency. The NDFA is responsible for providing advice to State authorities on financing of priority infrastructure projects and providing consultancy services across the range of technical expertise necessary to undertake such projects.
The development of the Grangegorman site as a campus for DIT is underpinned by the sale or development of existing DIT premises to finance future stages of development. This part of the Bill, therefore, makes provision for the vesting of these premises in the agency, together with other land and property vacated by the Eastern Regional Health Authority or its successor agency. The DIT-owned properties will be signed over to the agency, as they become available. The agency will then dispose of the property. The income generated will be used to fund the project together with other resources. I have mentioned a number of the buildings located in the heart of Dublin city, with which Members will be familiar, and everybody will accept they are valuable.
The agency will be the sole authority for developing the site. The agency will be required to engage in the planning process and decide on the appropriate procurement strategy to achieve this. The legislation requires the agency to arrange an appropriate communication strategy and consult stakeholders and relevant interested third parties such as Dublin City Council, CIE and Dublin Bus because of the complexity and sensitivity of the development.
The area surrounding the site is primarily residential. The development of the site must, therefore, be approached with sensitivity. The Bill incorporates provision for extensive consultation with all interested parties for this reason. These include local residents and health care staff and patients located on or near the site, the academic and student bodies of Dublin Institute of Technology, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Northern Area Health Board, and the Ministers for Education and Science and Health and Children. The local residents, in particular, need to be fully included in all the consultations and developments that are taking place. It is a strategically important site but I am conscious that the wishes and needs of the residents should be taken on board.
The Bill provides, on completion of the construction phase, for the vesting of those lands and premises to be occupied by DIT, the health authority or other educational body into the ownership of the respective authority, institute or other body. Section 9 allows for additional functions to be conferred on the agency by the Minister for Education and Science with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Section 10 provides that the Minister for Education and Science may issue general directives to the agency on policy regarding the agency's assigned functions.
Grangegorman is a unique site and is of strategic importance in the context of Dublin as a whole. Dublin City Council will be involved with the planning and development of the site from the outset. Section 11, therefore, provides that the agency will be responsible for drawing up a strategic development plan for the site, with a focus on the provision of adequate public transport access. The plan, which will be a necessary condition of seeking and obtaining planning permission, should incorporate community use and access and be informed by a high quality urban design perspective. The plan must set out the objectives for the development including the needs of the Minister for Education and Science, the Minister for Health and Children, Dublin Institute of Technology, the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board. In addition, the plan must take account of the needs of the local community and the city.
Given the nature of the proposed development and the likely impact on the locality, the agency, in drawing up the plan must have regard to the Dublin city development plan and the views of statutory bodies such as Dublin Bus and other interested parties. The Bill, therefore, provides that the draft plan must be made available to these bodies, local residents and other interested parties. The agency will be required to consider submissions made by them and, where appropriate, amend the plan.
Section 13 makes provision for the making of grants to the agency by the Minister for Education and Science or any other Minister, subject to the approval of the Minister for Finance. Section 14 is an enabling provision to provide the agency with the power to raise loans to a limit of €100 million, subject to the approval of the Ministers for Education and Science and Finance. Section 15 provides guarantees by the Minister for Finance for these loans. This is a standard provision which gives the Minister for Finance power to guarantee borrowings of the agency.
In deciding on the make-up of the agency, the Government was cognisant of the need to provide a direct input from the parties most interested in the development of Grangegorman and the need to drive the development forward. In limiting the board of the agency to 11 members, the Government has sought to balance the requirement to represent the principal stakeholders. The Bill provides for the appointment of 11 members to the agency, including the chairman. These will include two members to be nominated by the Minister for Health and Children, including one from either the Eastern Regional Health Authority or the Northern Area Health Board or their successor authorities; one member nominated by the Dublin Institute of Technology; one member nominated by the Dublin City Manager and the remainder nominated by the Minister for Education and Science. The term of office of the chairman and each ordinary member shall be three years.
Section 20 of the Bill requires the agency to form a consultative group consisting of stakeholders in the project and will include local residents in the Grangegorman neighbourhood, health care service providers and patients, Dublin City Council, Dublin Institute of Technology staff and students, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, the Northern Area Health Board, certain other Ministers and such statutory bodies which the Minister deems relevant. The agency is required to develop a communications strategy and is required to hold as many meetings as required to maintain the communications strategy.
Sections 21 to 38, inclusive, deal with the chief executive officer and staff of the agency and cover such matters as superannuation, code of conduct, declaration of interests and reports by the agency to the Minister. Section 39 of the Bill deals with the dissolution of the agency.
Sections 40 and 41 amend the definition of agency in the Planning and Development Act 2000 to include the Grangegorman Development Agency and the Schedule to the National Development Finance Agency Act 2002 to include the Grangegorman Development Agency. The thinking underpinning the location of the largest education provider in the State on this site is its effect on the surrounding area. In general this area requires redevelopment. The location of DIT in the locality will greatly enhance not just the educational facilities in the area but will contribute significantly to both cultural and social life. Furthermore, it is envisaged that new sports and recreational facilities will be available to local residents.
The Grangegorman development is a catalyst for development and rejuvenation of a large tract of the city landscape. Experience indicates that this type of development can speed the process of regeneration and in the process create a vibrant community for all concerned. The city council of Philadelphia in the United States estimate that the move by the University of Philadelphia to a brownstone city development stimulated regeneration in the inner city. Initial indications are that the development of DCU and the institute of technology in Tallaght have contributed positively to local development. The uptake of third level education in Tallaght has increased significantly since the institute opened.
The provision of third level education in such areas has a positive impact on participation in education and in economic development. The north inner city currently experiences Ireland's lowest rate of participation in higher education. The campus will further co-ordinate the contribution that the institute can make to improving participation rates in higher education. At present the institute has formal links with 30 inner city primary schools and has a range of initiatives targeting enhanced participation. The DIT has 30 full-time staff working in community projects such as interaction with primary schools and study groups in secondary schools. For instance, the institute participated in a programme to introduce technology into socially disadvantaged areas. With Dublin City Council and Hewlett Packard the institute has set up computer centres in nine flats complexes in the city. The institute also runs a special programme for 250 economically disadvantaged students. The consolidation of these services on the Grangegorman site will allow for greater focus in this area of community participation and will give greater dynamic to the community outreach programme.
In its strategy document, Dublin, a City of Possibilities, Dublin City Council recognises the important contribution of third level institutions to the development of the city under the banner of A Learning City. The Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011 designates Grangegorman a framework development area and a strategic objective of the city.
Approximately 10% of the Grangegorman site is intended for development of health care facilities for the Eastern Regional Health Authority. It is intended to refocus and reorient St. Brendan's Hospital campus. This will include a move from institutional to more appropriate community settings and a move from regional to local focus in health care provision, including a move from acute care to rehabilitation. This will include the provision of a more appropriate environment for those availing of the facilities. In addition, the creation of a joint education and health campus will provide opportunities to create synergies in developing appropriate model of care and development in specialist areas such as optometry, clinical-hospital measurement, dietetics and nutrition, social care, early childhood studies and health services management. It is also anticipated that the on-site co-operation between education and health care providers will lead to the development of tailored courses.
The Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board are responsible for the planning of health facilities in this locality. Currently it is anticipated that the health development on the site will include residential and day care for intellectually impaired and young physically impaired people, residential and day care for the elderly and dementia sufferers.
The siting of all the DIT at this north inner city location will make a significant contribution to the redevelopment of this part of the city. This role will extend to education and training, underpinning economic activity within the surrounding area, enhancing access opportunities, extending cultural facilities, provision of recreational and sporting facilities, rebuilding and developing large areas of dereliction and creating direct and indirect employment opportunities. To this end the institute is working in close co-operation with my Department, Dublin City Council, representative groups, development associations and agencies, Dublin Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Regional Health Authority and Northern Area Health Board.
This proposal for the setting up of the agency will lead to a very exciting development on the Grangegorman site, a development which will create a new centre of excellence and expertise for the DIT. The institute will be enabled to draw all its component parts together and build on its history of achievement over the past 120 or 130 years. The centre will allow for student participation because they will have a single site which will provide a sense of identity that has perhaps been lost. The siting of the institute will benefit the local community and enable it to avail of the sporting, social and recreational facilities with the education facilities which will be provided for local people. It will also provide an impetus to Dublin city for the regeneration of the whole area.
I hope Deputies will agree with me regarding the very positive benefits of this Bill for the long-term development of that area.