Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (192)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

192. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the legislation the Office of Public Works operates with regard to the dredging of watercourses; and if dredging by the OPW requires planning permission. [23436/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The statutory authority of the Commissioners of Public Works or its agents to undertake dredging operations as part of drainage or flood relief schemes as necessary derives from the Ministerial consent for such schemes under Section 7 of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945* and from Section 37 of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945* in relation to the maintenance of such schemes in proper repair and effective condition. Works specified in drainage schemes with Ministerial confirmation under the Arterial Drainage Acts are exempt from the requirement for planning permission under the Planning and Development Regulations.

* as amended by the Arterial Drainage (Amendment) Act, 1995.

Heritage Sites

Questions (193)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

193. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the OPW is responsible for the maintenance of a car park (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23479/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I can confirm that the small car-park serving the sites at Cahergal and Leacanabuaile Forts is under the care of the Office of Public Works. 

OPW is already aware of the bus and car-parking issues here and it is accepted that the area no longer serves the needs of people visiting these sites.  In the past, a number of possible re-configurations were considered for the area including the removal of the central flower bed.  However, it was felt that this would not bring any significant benefit as large coaches would then be able to park more easily thus reducing the space available for other vehicles.  There are no plans currently therefore to do any works at the site.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (194)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

194. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the measures in place funded by the OPW to respond to repeated flooding in Buncrana, County Donegal, in view of the fact that the town is not listed in the flood emergency response plan of Donegal County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23523/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I am pleased to say that good progress has been made on the implementation of new flood relief schemes in County Donegal since I announced, in May 2018, 29 Flood Risk Management Plans for all the main river basins.  These Plans identified a total of 118 flood relief projects to protect the main flood risk areas throughout the country, 15 of which are in County Donegal including a proposed scheme for Buncrana.  These Plans and projects are a key part of the overall flood risk management strategy set out in the National Development Plan 2017 - 2028 involving total investment of almost €1 billion over the ten year time frame of that Plan.  As it is not possible to implement all of the 118 projects at the one time, a total of 57 projects were prioritised for the initial tranche of investment and delivery based on the level of risk and number of properties to be protected.

Following consultation and discussions between the OPW and Donegal County Council, six of the 15 Donegal projects have been identified to be progressed in the first phase of implementation.  Steering Groups for the projects have been established and much work has been done for the appointment of consultants over the coming months for these projects. While the proposed project for Buncrana is not in the first tranche of projects to be advanced, both the OPW and Donegal County Council will work closely to ensure that the project will be progressed as early as possible in the coming years and within the 10 year timeframe for the programme of investment.

Heritage Sites

Questions (195)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

195. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of tourism access to a heritage site (details supplied). [23551/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

A key-holding agreement is in place with a representative of the local community who has agreed to open St Colmcille's House, Kells, to the public at certain times daily and at the specific request of larger groups who may wish to visit outside of these times.

This arrangement is in place for a trial period until the 31st December 2019.

Flood Prevention Measures

Questions (196)

Peter Burke

Question:

196. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 312 of 17 April 2018 and 75 of 28 May 2019, the status of a channel (details supplied). [23561/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Arterial Drainage maintenance works relate to Arterial Drainage Schemes completed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995. The Brosna Drainage Scheme is a maintainable scheme under this Act.

Maintenance work on this scheme was carried out by OPW staff during May and June 2018 and involved removing all blockages on the OPW maintainable channel that flows through Kilbrennan.

However, while the Scheme includes sections of channels running through the landowner’s property, it does not extend to the area referred to by the deputy. This area is outside the extent of the Brosna Drainage Scheme. The OPW therefore has no responsibility for the maintenance of the section in question, nor any authority to carry out works there.

Following the deputy’s original query, OPW staff met with the landowner in question and explained the constraints of the planned maintenance works to him.

Details of OPW Arterial Drainage channels are available to view on www.floodinfo.ie.

Coastal Protection

Questions (197, 198)

John Brady

Question:

197. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of coastal protection works at the Murrough in Wicklow town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23568/19]

View answer

John Brady

Question:

198. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of coastal protection works at north beach in Arklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23569/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.

In relation to coastal protection/erosion generally, it is a matter in the first instance for local authorities to identify and prioritise problems along their coastlines and, if a viable solution is available, they may undertake works using their own resources or, if necessary, apply for funding under the OPW Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme.  

The OPW operates the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, under which applications for funding from local authorities are considered for measures costing up to €750,000 in each instance. Funding for coastal erosion risk management studies may also be applied for under this scheme. Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for projects which meet the eligibility criteria including a requirement that the proposed measures are cost beneficial.  

The OPW has published guidelines for coastal erosion risk management measures and funding applications under the Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme, available on the OPW website at https://www.opw.ie.  

The OPW has already provided considerable funding support to Wicklow County Council in relation to protecting the North and South beaches at Arklow and the Murrough, Wicklow town.

Funding of €70,000 was approved in 2010 under the Minor Works scheme for proposed capital works to strengthen the existing revetment structure at Arklow north beach.  Further funding of €42,600 was approved under the Minor Works scheme in 2015 to undertake strengthening work on a coastal embankment at Arklow south beach.

Wicklow County Council also submitted an application for funding under the Minor Works scheme for further proposed works at Arklow north beach originally in 2016 and subsequently with two revised versions of this application in 2017.  The application was for proposed maintenance works to an existing revetment (rock armour structure). The OPW advised the Council that the application could not be approved because the proposal did not meet certain criteria, including the cost benefit criteria, of the scheme.  The Council was also advised that it may be more appropriate for it to seek funding for a detailed coastal erosion and flood risk management study to better understand the coastal processes involved in the wider region and to inform any further applications for funding for works. No further application has been received to date.

In March 2016 the OPW approved funding of €450,000 to Wicklow County Council to carry out emergency coastal protection works at the Murrough in Wicklow town. Works have been completed and all funding has been drawn down.  No further application has been submitted for works at this location.

I visited the areas myself and I am familiar with the issues. The OPW will continue to work constructively with Wicklow County Council on this matter and to provide advice and assistance to the Council as required.

Office of Public Works Projects

Questions (199)

Clare Daly

Question:

199. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the reason key environmental stakeholders such as an organisation (details supplied) were not contacted regarding the consultation on the strategy for the Phoenix Park; the reason the OPW did not provide online access to the full report when requested by multiple bodies that highlighted that the lack of access was a barrier to their ability to participate effectively in the consultation; when screening for appropriate assessment under Article 6(3) of the habitats directive was or will be undertaken; when and the way in which the obligations under the EU SEA directive will be assessed in view of the timeframes indicated by the OPW for the advancement of planning applications which are perceived to not make it credible that there is an intention to afford the time necessary to address those obligations should they arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23697/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategic Review, which was on display in the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre, was commissioned to examine how visitors currently experience the facilities on offer within the Phoenix Park. The purpose of this review was to identify areas for potential future enhancement of the Phoenix Park that would improve the visitor experience for all users. It was developed with reference to the core principles of the ‘Conservation Management Plan for the Phoenix Park’, which remains unchanged by this process.

It should be emphasised that the draft review is not a formal development plan or strategy for the Phoenix Park. It is not part of a formal statutory process of any kind. The OPW ensures at all times that it complies in full with all Directives including Article 6(3) of the Habitat's Directive as it applies to the Phoenix Park and this has been taken as a given in undertaking the review.

 The Draft Review was on public display for ten weeks in order to facilitate observations and comments from the public. It was considered that the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre was the best, most centrally located, venue for a public exhibition of information in respect of the Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategic Review.  The full Draft Review and an executive summary were also available to view at the Visitor Centre. For those who were not in a position to view the exhibition in person, a comprehensive Executive Summary of the Report and a pdf of all the exhibition panels has been available for download from the Phoenix Park website.  Libraries, community groups, residents associations, schools, sporting bodies, charities and all other interested parties can still download this material for free and share with their members. OPW remains open to, and indeed welcomes, any further observations and comments from any party. The executive summary and detailed information panels were created to provide a clear summation of the key elements of the draft review with which it was hoped that the public would engage. It was believed that this would assist the public in considering the core findings and the ideas proposed in the draft review.

Following a review of the observations and comments received from the public, the OPW will consider how best to advance a strategy of enhancement of visitor experience in the Phoenix Park. Any conservation projects or proposed developments arising from this draft review will be subject to the necessary regulatory and legislative requirements and go through the full planning permission process where necessary.

Office of Public Works Projects

Questions (200)

Clare Daly

Question:

200. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to ensure the consultation on the strategic vision for the Phoenix Park will be extended and the full report made available online with supporting documents and screening determinations required under EU law; if the extended consultation will be re-publicised adequately to ensure there is wide public awareness that it has been extended and that the documentation is now available; his further plans to ensure the OPW does not act in the future to inhibit the participation of the public in its consultations; his plans to censure those responsible for recent consultation and their perceived intransigence in responding to public concerns and requests for information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23698/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategic Review has been on display at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and a comprehensive Executive Summary online since 19th March 2019. The period for observations was extended and concluded on the 29th May 2019 resulting in a ten-week period for observations.

It should be noted that this document is not a formal strategic or statutory document for the Phoenix Park nor is it a development plan. It is an independent review of visitor experience at the Phoenix Park which makes suggestions as to how visitor experience could be enhanced in the future. OPW was seeking the public's observations on the main ideas in the independent Review but it must be emphasised that these are nothing more than ideas at this stage. Therefore, there are no screening determinations associated with such a report. All such issues would be addressed fully in the design and planning permission processes associated with any proposed developments which might be advanced in the future.

 The public engagement with the Review has been extensive and there are no plans to extend the observation period at this stage.  Nevertheless if any party wishes to see the full content of the draft Review this can be easily facilitated.  OPW remains open, and indeed welcomes, any further comment, or observations from any party in relation to the Review.

Essentially OPW considered it appropriate to bring the key draft findings of the review into the public domain in order to ensure that the public had an opportunity to engage with the ideas at this very early stage of the process.  Local representatives, stakeholders, community groups, and the press were informed about the Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategic Review and the public display.

Office of Public Works Properties

Questions (201)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

201. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of OPW residential properties vacant in County Kerry; the length of time these properties have been vacant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23792/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Commissioners of Public Works, on behalf of the State, manage a large and diverse property portfolio, which ranges from office accommodation to heritage properties, visitor centres, Garda stations, among others.  As is typical of such large portfolios, there will always be a number of properties, at any given time, that are vacant. 

The majority of the properties currently vacant are those Garda stations closed under the 2012/2013 policing plans of An Garda Síochána.  The remainder consists of properties such as customs posts, former coastguard stations and sundry other properties located throughout the country. 

At present, there are in the region of four properties that are currently vacant in County Kerry.  These are former Garda stations with attached married quarters, with the exception of the Ballylongford property, which has a detached married quarters.  These properties are in poor condition and not currently suitable for residential occupation.  The list of properties and length the properties are vacant is as follows:

Property

Length of Time Vacant

Former Garda Station and Married Quarters, Brosna, Co. Kerry

6 years

Former Garda Station and Married Quarters, Camp, Co. Kerry

6 years

Former Garda Station and Married Quarters, Moyvane, Co. Kerry

7 years

Former Married Quarters, Ballylongford, Co. Kerry

7 years 

The Commissioners of Public Works continually review properties in State ownership in line with the OPW’s policy on surplus vacant property.

The OPW policy with regard to non-operational (vacant) State property, including the properties in County Kerry is to:

1. Identify if the property is required/suitable for alternative State use by either Government Departments or the wider public sector.

2. If there is no other State use identified for a property, the OPW will then consider disposing of the property on the open market if and when conditions prevail, in order to generate revenue for the Exchequer.

3. If no State requirement is identified or if a decision is taken not to dispose of a particular property, the OPW may consider community involvement (subject to a detailed written submission, which would indicate that the community/voluntary group has the means to insure, maintain and manage the property and that there are no ongoing costs for the Exchequer).

Public Sector Pensions

Questions (202)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

202. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the lump sum a person (details supplied) received on retirement from the public sector in 2015 was a lesser amount due to FEMPI; if so, if and when the person will receive the difference as part of the unwinding of FEMPI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24221/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I would advise the Deputy that I cannot comment on the details of the case covered by the question as the particular public service pension scheme involved has not been specified. However, I would note in that regard that while I have administrative responsibility for the Civil Service Pension Schemes, I exercise a central policy/authorisation role in relation to all other public service pension schemes.

I will comment on the general point raised by the Deputy.

Public servants who retired from March 2012 onwards had the FEMPI (No. 2) Act 2009 pay reductions reflected in the salary rates that were used to calculate their pension benefits. However, in accordance with the protection known as the second 'grace period', they did not have the FEMPI 2013 reductions (imposed on 1 July 2013 on public servants on annual remuneration above €65,000) so reflected, even if those reductions were imposed on their salaries while serving. Accordingly, for a public servant who retired after implementation of the FEMPI 2013 pay reductions (assuming he or she was affected by those reductions), his or her retirement pension and lump sum were calculated not on the basis of the lower salary rates in payment to serving employees at the date of his or her retirement but on the salary rates in payment on 1 January 2010.

Section 6.2 of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018 - 2020 (PSSA) committed the Government to adopting an equitable approach to various public service pensioner cohorts differentiated by date of retirement, in the context of the resumption of pay parity for the duration of the PSSA.

Thus, for public servants retiring from 1 March 2012 onwards, to the extent that they retired on FEMPI reduced salaries when compared with public servants who retired from the same grade/payscale point before that date, they will receive, for the duration of the PSSA, pension increases in line with the pay increases due to their peers currently in employment.

In accordance with normal public service pension arrangements, retirement lump sums are calculated on the rates of salary that a public servant is in receipt of at time of retirement (with the exception of the 'grace period' protection I have described above). There is no provision to review historical retirement lump sum payments in the context of the unwinding of FEMPI.

Student Grant Scheme Eligibility

Questions (203)

Seán Haughey

Question:

203. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to restore grants for third level students to study Irish in the Gaeltacht as part of their undergraduate degree courses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23201/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The decision to stop the Gaeltacht placement grants was taken during the economic crisis when, unfortunately, very difficult decisions had to be made to stabilise the nation's finances.  At the time, priority was given to protecting resources for front line education services as far as possible.

While there is no provision currently in my Department's budget for this grant or an element thereof in 2019, because of ongoing budgetary pressures which continue to be acute, the matter remains under consideration in my Department.

To assist with the costs of the Gaeltacht placement, students who are in receipt of a student grant which includes a 100% fee grant, or who would have qualified for a full fee grant but for the Free Fees Scheme, can apply for funding towards travel and accommodation costs under the field trip element of a fee grant, subject to the normal terms and conditions of the student grant scheme.  Apart from this, in circumstances of particular need, students may apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund.  Information in relation to this fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended.

Physical Education

Questions (204)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Question:

204. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the recommended time for physical education per week at all class levels is being complied with by all post-primary schools. [23305/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Junior Cycle Physical Education

Under the new Framework, schools may choose to incorporate a new Short Course in Physical Education (PE) into their junior cycle programme, either for certification purposes (which was not available previously) or not for certification. Alternatively, they may choose not to opt for the new course and may instead continue to use existing courses or choose other approaches to meet the requirements in this area. Schools may also decide to provide the PE short course in addition to their existing programmes. Circular 0079/2018, Arrangements for the Implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle, states that schools should provide a minimum of 135 hours of PE spread across first, second and third year (i.e. the most common current allocation of PE provided by schools – two class periods per week).

The new short course in PE aims to develop students as knowledgeable, skilful and creative participants who are confident and competent to perform in a range of activities safely. The course aims to build students’ appreciation of the importance of health-enhancing and inclusive physical activity and a commitment to it now and in the future.

Senior Cycle

Under the current Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools, PE should form part of the curriculum. The syllabus in PE have been developed on the basis of a time allocation of two hours per week. In addition, the Department is currently working on two developments that will impact PE at senior cycle:

Leaving Certificate Physical Education

A new specification for Leaving Certificate Physical Education (LCPE) has been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and approved by the Minister. This is a full subject that can be assessed as a Leaving Certificate subject in a manner similar to other subjects such as Maths and Irish. LCPE is currently being introduced on a phased basis to 64 schools nationally. The new subject will be available as a full (optional) subject to all post-primary schools from September 2020.  

LCPE is designed to be taught in approximately 180 hours. It is recommended that of the five suggested class periods a week, a double period per week should be included to facilitate learners’ active participation in the three physical activities.

Senior Cycle Physical Education Framework

In addition to the specification for examinable LCPE at Senior Cycle, a Framework for Senior Cycle Physical Education (SCPE) has been designed to provide schools with a framework within which they can design a PE programme for those students who do not choose to take LCPE as part of their Leaving Certificate examination.

There are 40 post-primary schools participating in the phase 1 rollout of the Framework. The Framework is available now to all schools for their consideration in planning senior cycle PE. It will replace the guidelines set out in the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools which currently forms the basis for PE at senior cycle.

The Framework is designed to be taught over the two or three years of senior cycle education.  It is recommended that a double period or its equivalent per week is made available as a minimum requirement for teaching the Framework.

Oideachas Gaeltachta

Questions (205)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

205. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Catherine Connolly den Aire Oideachais agus Scileanna cad é líon agus cad iad ainmneacha na scoileanna sna limistéir pleanála teanga Ghaeltachta atá rannpháirteach sa Scéim Aitheantais Scoileanna Gaeltachta ag an bpointe seo, de réir limistéar agus i bhfoirm tábla; cad é líon agus cad iad ainmneacha na scoileanna nár chuir isteach ar an scéim go fóill agus cén chúis ábhartha a thug na scoileanna sin; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [24165/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

- Tá líon na mbunscoileanna agus na niar-bhunscoileanna sna limistéir pleanála teanga Ghaeltachta atá rannpháirteach sa Scéim Aitheantais Scoileanna Gaeltachta ag an bpointe seo leagtha amach sa doiciméad ceangailte.  Tá líon na scoileanna nár chuir isteach ar an Scéim go fóill leagtha amach i gcolún ar leith sa Tábla freisin.

- Tá ainmneacha na mbunscoileanna agus na niar-bhunscoileanna atá páirteach sa Scéim ar fáil      ar naisc ghréasáin na Roinne Oideachais agus Scileanna ag:

https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Policy-on-Gaeltacht-Education-2017-2022/scoileanna-rannphairteach-sa-sceim-aitheantais-scoileanna-gaeltachta-2018-bunscoileanna-.pdf https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Policy-on-Gaeltacht-Education-2017-2022/scoileanna-rannphairteach-sa-sceim-aitheantais-scoileanna-gaeltachta-2018-iar-bhunscoileanna-.pdf  

Níl ainmneacha na scoileanna nár roghnaigh páirt a ghlacadh sa Scéim go fóill foilsithe ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna mar cuirfear deiseanna eile ar fáil do na scoileanna seo páirt a ghlacadh sa Scéim.

Thuairiscigh na scoileanna gurb iad seo a leanas na cúiseanna nár chuir siad isteach ar an Scéim go dtí seo:

- Cultúr agus traidisiún fada ag scoileanna a bheith ag teagasc trí mheán an Bhéarla agus is trí Bhéarla a fuair formhór na dtuismitheoirí a gcuid oideachais.

- Easpa muiníne agus inniúlachta sa Ghaeilge ag múinteoirí an tumoideachas a chur i bhfeidhm

- Easpa phobal Gaeltachta i gceantar na scoile le líon beag cainteoirí dúchais nó gan aon chainteoir dúchais sa phobal

- Easpa tuisceana i measc múinteoirí agus tuismitheoirí maidir leis an luaththumoideachas, agus imní orthu nach mbeadh ach Gaeilge amháin ar siúl ar feadh dhá bhliain, agus go mbeadh caighdeán Bhéarla na ndaltaí thíos leis

- Imní nach n-éireodh le daltaí le riachtanais speisialta oideachais sa suíomh tumoideachais

- Imní ar mhúinteoirí go dtitfeadh rollachán na ndaltaí sa scoil. 

Supporting Documentation

State Examinations

Questions (206)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

206. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if any junior or leaving certificate examinations will be assessed by computers or online instead of by written scripts read by examiners in the 2019 academic year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23207/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations.

In view of this I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Departmental Properties

Questions (207)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

207. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number, location and value of lands acquired by his Department by way of CPO in the past three years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23240/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department does not have statutory Compulsory Purchase Order powers but Local Authorities have used their powers to assist in the acquisition of land for educational use.

While the CPO process has been used previously for school site acquisitions with the assistance of local authorities, it is generally only suitable when all efforts to acquire the site by agreement and the acquisition of all other viable site options have been unsuccessful. 

CPOs have also been used to overcome title issues associated with sites or access to sites.   

Two CPOs by local authorities in respect of lands for educational use have completed in the past three years to date:

1. CPO by Louth County Council in respect of a circa 7 acre portion of school site at Dundalk.  The acquisition cost in this respect was €965,000 plus VAT.  The onward transfer of the entire school site into my ownership has not yet completed.

2. CPO by South Dublin County Council (SDCC) in respect of a small portion of a school site in Knocklyon.  The school site was in SDCC ownership and this CPO was for SDCC's title regularisation purposes.  The consideration paid to SDCC was in respect of the purchase of the overall school site and was not a CPO cost to my Department.