Thursday, 20 June 2019

Questions (7)

James Browne

Question:

7. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the future of a property owned by the Office of Public Works, OPW, (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25720/19]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Public)

I wish to ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the future of the old Garda station in Wexford town.

Following the closure of the Garda station on Roche's Road, Wexford, on 22 September 2017 the OPW sought alternative State use for the property. There is no central government requirement for accommodation in the former Garda station and no alternative State requirement for the property has materialised following engagement with Wexford County Council, the Health Service Executive, HSE, and Tusla.

The OPW had agreed to enter into a lease arrangement with the Wexford Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Service for the part of the property known as the sergeant’s quarters because the main building exceeded that body's requirements. However, the service advised the OPW on the 19 February last that it was proceeding to source alternative accommodation in Wexford and would not require the sergeant’s quarters.

Wexford Community Services Council, also known as St. Brigid’s Day Care Centre, which currently occupies the adjoining property, has expressed an interest in acquiring the former Garda station. It is currently conducting a review of the property to establish if it can meet its needs and if acquiring the property would be feasible in light of the potential cost of refurbishment and alteration that will be required. If St. Brigid’s Day Care Centre decides to proceed with acquiring the property subject to the outcome of discussions with the OPW, the option of entering into a lease arrangement will be considered. If it decides the property is not suitable for its needs, the OPW will again establish whether there is any alternative State use for the property prior to disposing of it on the open market.

I thank the Minister of State. The old Garda station on Roche's Road in Wexford is an iconic building. There is a lot of history there. A lot of proud gardaí served in that building and the community is very proud of the station. I was there on the day they closed the doors and marched up to the new Garda station on Mulgannon Road. The station has been empty for two years. It has been allowed to fall into very significant disrepair. Large weeds, boarding and wiring have sprung up around the station. It is deteriorating rapidly and there is concern that the longer this goes on, the more costly it will be to repair. There is a history of this in Wexford town concerning the old hospital under the control of the HSE. When the new hospital was opened in the early 1990s, the old building was left vacant and allowed to fall apart. It is still in a terrible state. I do not want to see the same thing happening to the Garda station in Wexford town.

The Deputy referred to the closure of the old Garda station. I was there for the opening of the new Garda station. It was a proud day for Wexford and a proud day for the Government, which supplied the resources for a new state-of-the-art station. I have been working on the issue of the old Garda station. Deputy Howlin and others have approached me about this matter. We have sought alternative uses for this accommodation. We have not fallen behind. We are very active in trying to get someone into the station. Potential users have looked at the station and have found it does not meet their requirements. We will continue until we find someone who will make use of it. At this time, a body is interested in the building. We are working closely with it to work out a deal that suits its requirements. If we can do so, it will be good news for that part of Wexford.

St. Brigid's Day Care Centre, which is situated next door to the old Garda station, does phenomenal work as a full-time day-care centre for elderly people. I was there just two weeks ago. That organisation would love to use part of that building but it is a voluntary organisation. Its staff does its very best to keep the doors open. Given the length of time the building has closed, repairing it would give to a significant cost for any voluntary organisation. The OPW has a duty to the community to maintain that building, especially in light of its history. Any voluntary organisation that proposes to take it over should be given as much help as much as possible by the OPW.

As already stated, there is history in this regard in Wexford town. The old hospital was allowed to go to wrack and ruin. We do not want to see the same thing happen to a second building in the town centre. It is already happening to that building. The OPW has a duty to at least maintain that building in the state it was in when it was closed. That was not a very good state, but it has now been allowed to dilapidate into a much more serious situation.

I do not agree that the OPW has allowed the building to decline. We are seeking an alternative user to take over that building. We are working on this. As I pointed out earlier, several Deputies have come to me with different ideas and approaches. I have worked with them. We have not been able to get anybody to take that building. St. Brigid's Day Care Centre is now interested. We are working closely with that organisation. We will see what the outcome is. Let us allow the discussions to take place before saying that nothing is happening. It is not fair to say that the OPW is not trying to put that building right by finding the right tenant and working with that tenant.

I did not say that. I said the building is not being maintained. That is a fact.

The matter is concluded. Time is up. The Minister of State and the Deputy must take it up between themselves afterwards.