I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 14 together.
In order to ensure the Defence Forces have the capability to deliver in all of the roles assigned by the Government, I am committed to the development and improvement of the physical environment and living conditions in military installations throughout the country. The Defence Forces built infrastructure programme is compiled on a priority needs basis by my Department in conjunction with the military authorities. This year some €28 million was allocated towards the maintenance and development of new building projects for the Defence Forces. This represents an increase of over €10 million compared to the figure allocated in 2018. I can confirm for the Deputy that it is intended that the budget allocation will be matched in the coming years to ensure the level of building activity will be in line with Defence Forces requirements.
The White Paper on Defence has identified the need to develop a rolling five-year capital plan to provide for future Defence Forces built infrastructure requirements, taking account of the capability priority needs of the Defence Forces. The plan is expected to be finalised shortly. The list of works identified as part of the project will be prioritised for delivery based on military needs and updated annually to form the basis for the selection of capital projects under the programme into the future.
I will set out some of the key ongoing projects under way in improving Defence Forces accommodation and living standards across military installations. The refurbishment of the apprentice hostel accommodation block at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel is well advanced. It will provide classrooms, an auditorium, recreational facilities and improved living accommodation for 75 personnel. The project will be completed shortly at a cost of €3 million. The refurbishment of the dining hall in Custume Barracks in Athlone started in 2018. The scope of the works includes the refurbishment and upgrade of the existing dining hall and cook house. The upgrade and refurbishment of the building currently in place will provide a modern dining facility and ensure the long-term viability of the complex at the barracks. The works will be completed by year end at a cost of €3.6 million. The upgrading and refurbishment of Plunkett Block 7 at the Curragh Camp, Defence Forces Training Centre, involve the refurbishment of the existing accommodation for 58 personnel to modern standards. The works will commence shortly. Upgrading and refurbishment of the existing accommodation for 80 personnel in blocks 1 and 2 in Cathal Brugha Barracks will also commence before year end.
I am confident that the increased level of building construction will continue in 2020 and onwards. Next year I expect construction to commence of new gymnasia in Kilkenny and Limerick at a cost in the region of €5 million. I should also mention two significant projects that have recently been approved to proceed. The refurbishment and upgrading of the accommodation block at the naval base at Haulbowline will deliver additional living capacity on top of the existing provision of 210 bed spaces provided at the naval base. It is intended that work will commence on block 8 on site in 2020. Another project involves the upgrade of the former USAC complex in Galway. This building has been designed to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms. The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building construction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency. While both projects are at an early stage of design development, it is expected that construction works will commence in late 2020.
Taken together, the projects which are all being prioritised represent a combined value of €30 million in planned capital investment. This level of investment illustrates the importance I attach to ensuring the quality of the Defence Forces' built infrastructure meets the expectations of serving personnel.