I can confirm to the Deputy that my Department, together with the military authorities, are actively developing a five-year built infrastructural plan. I am advised that this plan, which will address infrastructural requirements for all military installations, is now at a very advanced stage of development and will be completed in the coming weeks.
The plan will provide, for the first time, a blueprint for investment in the Defence Forces built infrastructure over a multi-annual timeframe and will ensure that the required capital funding is allocated in order to ensure that the plan is implemented as intended. The list of works identified as part of this project will be prioritised for delivery based on military needs and will be updated annually to form the basis for the selection of capital projects under the programme into the future.
I am fully 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.
Some of the key ongoing projects, now under way in improving Defence Forces accommodation and living standards across military installations are as follows. The upgrading and refurbishment of block 7 at Plunkett Barracks in the Curragh Camp, Defence Forces training centre involves the refurbishment of the existing accommodation for 58 personnel to modern standards. The works have now commenced. Work on the upgrading and refurbishment of the existing accommodation for 80 personnel in blocks 1 and 2 at Cathal Brugha Barracks has also commenced. The refurbishment of the apprentice hostel accommodation block at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, is well advanced and will be completed in early 2020. It will provide classrooms, an auditorium, recreation and improved living in accommodation for 75 personnel. The refurbishment of the dining hall at Custume Barracks, Athlone, started in 2018 and I hope to open it in early 2020. The scope of the works includes the refurbishment and upgrading of the existing dining hall.
I am confident that this increased level of building construction will continue into 2020. Last week, I announced two new gymnasia in Kilkenny and Limerick. The refurbishment and upgrading of block 8 at the naval base in Haulbowline will deliver additional accommodation on top of the existing provision of 210 bed spaces that are already provided at there. It is intended that the work on the block 8 site will commence in 2020. Work will commence on the upgrade of the former university student administrative USAC complex in Galway. The building is designed to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.
While both projects are at an early stage of design development, it is expected that construction works will commence in late 2020. The level of investment illustrates the importance I attach to ensuring that the quality of the Defence Forces built infrastructure meets with the expectations of serving personnel.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
On the specific points raised by the Deputy, I am advised by the military authorities that there are ablution facilities available for Army Ranger Wing personnel. I also understand that the Cadet School's offices are currently housed in modern prefabricated buildings. The Defence Forces are developing proposals for the procurement of a design team to develop proposals for a long-term building solution. I have already referenced the works under way in terms of the upgrading and refurbishment of block 7 at Plunkett Barracks in the Curragh Camp.
This year, €28 million was allocated towards the maintenance of existing buildings and the development of new building projects for the Defence Forces. This represents an increase of more than €10 million compared with 2018. I can confirm that it is intended that the budget allocation will be matched in the coming years in order to ensure that the level of building activity is in line with Defence Force requirements.