Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ceisteanna (42)

Joan Burton


42. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for the delay in building a permanent school on the Phoenix Park racecourse site for a college (details supplied); when construction of the new permanent school building will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47484/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Education)

I ask the Minister about Edmund Rice college, which has been established in temporary accommodation at Blanchardstown in Dublin, and the site for its permanent building on the Phoenix Park racecourse on the Navan Road. The completion of this permanent building has now been put back by a further year, to September 2021, much to the intense disappointment of parents and students. This delay is also causing significant difficulties for the school, which was a huge waiting list for enrolments. Will the Minister see if he can do something to bring the completion date of the school forward?

Gabhaim buíochas le Teachta Burton as an cheist. The permanent project for the school referred to by the Deputy is being delivered under my Department's design and build programme.

  Key factors that can impact on the timeline for any new school project are the availability of a site and the planning permission process for the new school building.

  A site was identified and will be available for this new school.  This has enabled the design process for the new school building to be undertaken.  Pre-planning meetings have been held with the local authority. The latter has requested a further meeting to review the proposed drawings prior to submission of the planning application.  This meeting took place yesterday, 18 November, and it is envisaged that a planning application will be submitted shortly.  The planning permission process will be a key factor for determining the timeline for the delivery of this project.

My Department's officials have kept the school authority fully briefed in relation to this project and the anticipated delivery timelines in respect of same.

Along with the Taoiseach, my Department is working to have the first phase of the school's permanent accommodation handed over by September of 2021 with phase 2 to follow in a matter of months.

The delivery date of September 2021 for phase 1 is dependent on no delays arising during the planning permission processes.

More than 500 people attended the recent open evening for those interested in having their children attend the school. The school now has 230 applications for 2021. I do not know if the Minister is aware of the site on which the school is currently located. I am sure the school community would welcome a visit from him if he is going out of the city via the Navan Road. Essentially, the school is not going to be able to accommodate those children with the delay of a year unless it is really facilitated by the Department in having further temporary accommodation on the site. The school is very successful. It has a very good community of parents, teachers and students. We are, however, experiencing a massive population increase of children of secondary school going age, and the Minister will be aware there is also an increase in the numbers of children who are of primary school going age. We have a real crisis on our hands in Dublin 15 around the number of school places available. Will the Minister confirm that the temporary accommodation will be provided by his Department?

We are in the middle of a process to get to September 2021, but whatever availability or demand there is, we have an obligation to do that, and we do it. I have visited the different parts of the more pressured areas. I was in Lucan yesterday and I know there is a question tabled for today in respect of north Kildare. I am aware of the enormous pressures that exist. There are new planning permissions coming on stream and there is more and more demand for places. The best approach to all of this is to ensure that we get things right, that we are in the right place and that we identify where the demands are. With a very important project such as this the planning permission will determine the timeframe. Unfortunately, this is something over which I do not have any control but I assure Deputy Burton that once we get through this process and get through the planning process, nothing will be left behind in the context of the sense of urgency relating to this matter.

There is extraordinary population pressure. The Government has referred to demographic factors underlying significant parts of the budget for 2020. This school is an example. Earlier, I asked the Minister about the maps of school planning areas, which very few people from the area - including myself - can actually understand. The maps contain area names that I do not associate in any way with the areas designated on the maps. Deputy Durkan is nodding. These are different places to the places I know. Developers selling homes in the area are pointing across the road and saying, "Your school will be there and you will be able to enrol your junior or secondary school child in it." That is not true. We need to get the temporary facilities as quickly as possible because this will be a fine 1,000-pupil school, but only if the Department facilitates the buildings.

We have a dedicated team in the forward planning section in Tullamore. They take into consideration existing pressures and existing levels of demand, along with future planning permissions. They work very closely with the different local authorities. That relationship is key for the forward planning and to make progress in order to ensure that we meet the demand in the future is very important. This school is important for the area and it is vital that we get it right. I hope there will be no delays with the planning process and that we will get out the other end in order to get this done on time.