Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (48)

John Curran

Question:

48. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to prioritise the 54 school building projects experiencing delays in progressing beyond the architectural detailed design stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26627/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Education)

Several schools in my constituency have contacted me to express concern about the delays in undertaking school building projects. It prompted me to look at the number of school projects at stage 2(b), architectural design and planning stage. Several seem to have been at this stage for a considerable period. Will the Minister and his Department take steps to address the delays and issues facing the schools that have projects at stage 2(b) for the longest periods?

The school building projects referred to by the Deputy are included in my Department's construction programme which is being delivered under the national development plan. Stage 2(b) - detailed design - is arguably the most complex and detailed of all the stages of architectural planning. In addition to securing the necessary statutory approvals, it includes preparation of complex and detailed tender documents.

In completing stage 2b, design teams are now required to upgrade design details to ensure that new school buildings are near zero energy buildings, or NZEBs, in compliance with the 2017 amendment of Part L of the current building regulations. In many cases, this has involved a second planning application to allow for the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof following receipt of the initial planning permission.

The Deputy will appreciate that all major school building projects under the Department's construction programme are progressed through the various stages of architectural planning in accordance with the Department's design team procedures, building control regulations and public works contract requirements. He will also accept that as the funding is Exchequer funding, the process and costs associated with any major project must be fully accounted for. Design teams must therefore be diligent in their preparation of the stage 2b tender documentation to satisfy all regulatory bodies and my Department's design team procedures. This results in minimising delays during further stages of the project.

Major school building projects at stage 2b for one year and over:

Project Type

Project Name

Date Progressed to Stage 2(b)

At Stage 2(b) > 1 Year

At Stage 2(b) > 2 Year

At Stage 2(b) >3 Years

At Stage 2(b) > 5 Years

Major Building Project - ADAPT

Blarney, Cork

27/06/2017

X

Blackwater, Waterford

15/02/2017

X

Cahir, Tipperary

16/04/2018

X

Ennistymon, Clare

13/04/2017

X

St Conleth St Mary's Kildare

17/05/2017

X

Maynooth BNS, Kildare

08/02/2017

X

Ashbourne, Meath

09/11/2017

X

Clondalkin, Dublin

Approx Feb 2017

X

Rosmini, Drumcondra

Approx Feb 2017

X

Waterpark, Waterford

24/05/2017

X

SN Brid, Cullenns, Ballina, Mayo

07/04/2017

X

Rush & Lusk, Dublin

Approx Apr 2017

X

Major Building Project -TRAD

St Clares, Cavan

25/04/2016

X

St Patricks, Clane

27/05/2014

X

Mhicil Naofa, Athy

31/07/2014

X

St Joseph's, Kilcock

04/02/2015

X

Monasterevin Amalg

30/06/2016

X

Marymount, Louth

22/09/2015

X

Ballapousta, Louth

20/12/2016

X

St Pauls, Monasterevin

19/11/2015

X

Scoil Íosagáin, Buncrana

07/03/2018

X

Scoil Cholmcille, Letterkenny

07/01/2015

X

Lismullen NS

07/02/2013

X

Little Angel's Special School

23/01/2017

X

St Mary's (Scoil Mhuire), Stranorlar

08/12/2015

X

Glenswilly NS

21/10/2015

X

Dunboyne Junior & Senior NS

10/11/2015

X

O'Carolan College, Nobber

08/11/2017

X

St Senan's NS, Enniscorthy

17/01/2014

X

Seosamh Naofa Carrabane, Athenry

24/03/2014

X

Scoil an Chroí Naofa, Ballinasloe

12/05/2011

X

Newtownmountkennedy Primary School

12/01/2017

X

Kilcoole Primary School

18/01/2016

X

St David's Secondary School

17/08/2015

X

Ballyowen Meadows & Setanta

10/07/2012

X

Rush NS

07/01/2015

X

St Josephs College, Lucan

24/06/2015

X

St Cronans, Brackenstown

09/06/2016

X

Holy Family Community School

18/02/2016

X

Lucan Community College

14/03/2017

X

Gaelcholaiste Reachrann

20/02/2017

X

Harcourt Terrace Primary School

04/07/2017

X

Scoil Aine & St Thomas (Esker)

19/11/2014

X

Divine Mercy/Archbishop Ryan

04/04/2016

X

Our Lady of Lourdes Goldenbridge

30/04/2014

X

St Laurence O'Toole Special School

06/10/2014

X

Hedgestown NS (Baile Falbach)

12/03/2014

X

St Marys Secondary School, Mayo

04/04/2017

X

Major Building Projects - Devolved

St. Finian's Community College, Swords

25/05/2015

X

Kanturk BNS (S-B) (with RN 17087J)

18/12/2014

X

SN Creachmhaoil, Craughwell (M)

19/03/2015

X

Ardee ETNS

12/10/2017

X

Dublin 7 ETNS

21/03/2018

X

Our Lady's College

14/02/2018

X

Project Type

Project Name

Date Progressed to Stage 2(b)

At Stage 2(b) > 1 Year

At Stage 2(b) > 2 Year

At Stage 2(b) >3 Years

At Stage 2(b) > 5 Years

Major Building Project - ADAPT

Blarney, Cork

27/06/2017

X

Blackwater, Waterford

15/02/2017

X

Cahir, Tipperary

16/04/2018

X

Ennistymon, Clare

13/04/2017

X

St Conleth St Mary's Kildare

17/05/2017

X

Maynooth BNS, Kildare

08/02/2017

X

Ashbourne, Meath

09/11/2017

X

Clondalkin, Dublin

Approx Feb 2017

X

Rosmini, Drumcondra

Approx Feb 2017

X

Waterpark, Waterford

24/05/2017

X

SN Brid, Cullenns, Ballina, Mayo

07/04/2017

X

Rush & Lusk, Dublin

Approx Apr 2017

X

Major Building Project -TRAD

St Clares, Cavan

25/04/2016

X

St Patricks, Clane

27/05/2014

X

Mhicil Naofa,Athy

31/07/2014

X

St Joseph's,Kilcock

04/02/2015

X

Monasterevin Amalg

30/06/2016

X

Marymount, Louth

22/09/2015

X

Ballapousta,Louth

20/12/2016

X

St Pauls,Monasterevin

19/11/2015

X

Scoil Íosagáin, Buncrana

07/03/2018

X

Scoil Cholmcille, Letterkenny

07/01/2015

X

Lismullen NS

07/02/2013

X

Little Angel's Special School

23/01/2017

X

St Mary's (Scoil Mhuire), Stranorlar

08/12/2015

X

Glenswilly NS

21/10/2015

X

Dunboyne Junior & Senior NS

10/11/2015

X

O'Carolan College, Nobber

08/11/2017

X

St Senan's NS, Enniscorthy

17/01/2014

X

Seosamh Naofa Carrabane, Athenry

24/03/2014

X

Scoil an Chroí Naofa, Ballinasloe

12/05/2011

X

Newtownmountkennedy Primary School

12/01/2017

X

Kilcoole Primary School

18/01/2016

X

St David's Secondary School

17/08/2015

X

Ballyowen Meadows & Setanta

10/07/2012

X

Rush NS

07/01/2015

X

St Josephs College, Lucan

24/06/2015

X

St Cronans, Brackenstown

09/06/2016

X

Holy Family Community School

18/02/2016

X

Lucan Community College

14/03/2017

X

Gaelcholaiste Reachrann

20/02/2017

X

Harcourt Terrace Primary School

04/07/2017

X

Scoil Aine & St Thomas (Esker)

19/11/2014

X

Divine Mercy/Archbishop Ryan

04/04/2016

X

Our Lady of Lourdes Goldenbridge

30/04/2014

X

St Laurence O'Toole Special School

06/10/2014

X

Hedgestown NS (Baile Falbach)

12/03/2014

X

St Marys Secondary School, Mayo

04/04/2017

X

Major Building Projects - Devolved

St. Finian's Community College, Swords

25/05/2015

X

Kanturk BNS (S-B) (with RN 17087J)

18/12/2014

X

SN Creachmhaoil, Craughwell (M)

19/03/2015

X

Ardee ETNS

12/10/2017

X

Dublin 7 ETNS

21/03/2018

X

Our Lady's College

14/02/2018

X

I am in no way suggesting shortcuts should be taken or that we should not comply fully with regulations and planning law. However, it is interesting that of the 70 major schools building projects at stage 2b, seven have been at that stage for a year, 19 for two years, 19 for three years and nine for five years. What is going on that these they are taking so long to get through stage 2b? The particular concern school principals raise with me is whether priority is being given to new builds rather than to substantial refurbishments. It is causing significant difficulty where schools avoid availing of summer works or upgrading notwithstanding their poor condition and this is going on year after year. Capital expenditure in the Department of Education and Skills is ahead of profile. Is that a contributing factor?

There are a number of reasons for delays. For example, the NZEB regulations were introduced in 2017, which meant many school projects in the 2016-2021 capital programme had to be revised. A number in my own constituency had to go back through the process to ensure the designs met the NZEB provisions. The major question among schools and students themselves relates to environmental standards. When I go to schools that are more than 100 years old, the students ask me how they can be made more environmentally sound and habitable. They ask why they do not have solar panels and why we are not retrofitting them. These are legitimate questions and young people are challenging us on them. It is difficult for students in older schools to watch new schools coming down the line. It raises questions of fairness. There are many competing pressures on the budget and investing to make schools sustainable. There is also the ongoing demographic challenge of increases in population. One can list the reasons. It was not just NZEB. Schools might not have received fire compliance certificates or other issues may have arisen along the way. If the Deputy feels there are schools that are not being progressed properly, I would be very interested to hear about it.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I might help him by providing a couple of those examples. Lucan Community College has been looking for its extension which has been going through the process at this stage for more than a decade. Holy Family Community School in Rathcoole was identified in 2004 as needing a new 1,000-student building within seven years. According to the most recent reply, it is at stage 2b. The irony is that its identification as requiring a new school and significant upgrades means it has not been able to avail of the summer works scheme since 2004. Divine Mercy senior and junior national school in Clondalkin had a design team appointed in January 2004. The most recent reply from the Department states that it remains at stage 2b. The concern is clearly indicated by the principal who wrote last winter as follows:

After the past two days rain, the roof in the prefabs has five serious leaks. I have had to evacuate and relocate a class of eight and nine year olds to another substandard classroom as the caretaker endeavours to fix the problems. As we are only at the start of the winter, I am at a loss to know what to do. Should I have the whole roof repaired at a substantial cost or is it to be razed to the ground.

These are the ongoing problems schools face while waiting to progress. If what was involved was a new build, most principals believe it would have happened already.

The Deputy mentioned Lucan Community College. A major building project was authorised to proceed to stage 2b on 14 March 2017. A brief-change report was submitted to the Department in October 2017 to seek approval for a full replacement of or repairs to the existing roof. The Department required a further breakdown of the costs and scope from the design team and that was received in July 2018. The Department approved the full replacement of the existing roof in October 2018. The design team quantity surveyor withdrew from the project in late October 2018 and a replacement tender process was carried out by Dublin and Dún Laoghaire ETB, the client for the project. The replacement quantity surveyor appointment was ratified in April 2019. The design team is completing stage 2b, including by ensuring the submission is NZEB compliant. That is just one example of the issues we cannot control. If that was one of the schools that has been waiting ten years, I appreciate the deep frustration on the part of the board of management, principal, teachers, students and wider community. We are in the right place now and, hopefully, we can make progress.