Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (100)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

100. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent of his engagement over the past year with other State agencies regarding the new Garda station for Macroom, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26376/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

The Garda station in Macroom is very much showing its age. The need to upgrade and to replace the station has been very well established over a number of years. That is why it was included in the capital programme for the period from 2016 to 2021. Even though the land was bought some five years ago, very little progress, if any, seems to have been made in advancing the project. The Department of Justice and Equality was to confirm that it was a priority project. Can that now be confirmed? Is it a priority project? Is advancing through a public private partnership? What is the up-to-date position on getting the new station for Macroom?

I will answer the Deputy's question about Macroom Garda station on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, who cannot be here in the Chamber. Since the Garda Commissioner’s announcement of a major reorganisation of An Garda Síochána’s structures and the decision to change the new Macroom station from a district station to a regional and divisional headquarters in late 2019, the Office of Public Works has undertaken intensive engagement with the key relevant State agencies.

The Office of Public Works, OPW, has been liaising with An Garda Síochána in respect of the brief and the design of the scheme since the Garda Commissioner announced the station in Macroom was to operate as a regional and divisional headquarters. The design is well advanced and is currently with An Garda Síochána for approval of the plans.

From an early stage in the project, there has been ongoing engagement with the local authority, Cork County Council, with which the OPW jointly acquired a greenfield site off the N22 for dual use. There has been ongoing technical consultation with the local authority, which will deliver the shared access road as part of a fire station development. It is understood this aspect of the development has been tendered by the local authority and completion of this part of the work is critical to a public private partnership contractor being able to commence work on the Garda station site. Meetings have taken place between OPW and the local authority with regard to the planning application and site infrastructure for the development, including water supply, drainage and road junctions. The relevant pre-connection inquiries have been made to Irish Water.

Considerable energy has been added to the project since it was promoted to a new divisional headquarters. The divisional headquarters will serve the entire county of Cork, one eighth of the entire island. The Minister of State can well imagine the additional demand on the station. I imagine he will well understand the frustration locally, having seen little progress on this project for several years. It is good that new energy is coming to it at this stage and I thank him for that. Can he clarify who the different stakeholders are? Who has been engaged at this stage? The National Development Finance Agency, NDFA, was to advance the public private partnership aspect of the project. The agency was waiting for the Department of Justice and Equality to identify the project as a priority. Is the project continuing as a PPP? Has the NDFA engaged with the OPW? Is the agency in a position to advance the project?

The idea that the fire station project would in some way impede this project does not stand up; it is actually the other way around. Cork County Council was able to advance the project, despite the fact that the council had to wait to get updates on the shared entrance. Who are the different agencies involved? Has the NDFA been given the go-ahead to drive on full tilt as a public private partnership?

The Deputy has asked who the stakeholders are. The OPW has had meetings with the NDFA, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality, which is funding the project on a regular basis to progress it as part of a PPP. Other agencies are involved as well. There were long negotiations with Cork County Council regarding the shared access road. Irish Water has concerns about the capacity required.

An Garda Síochána upgraded this project significantly last year. It is a completely different project, more than twice the size of what was originally intended. We have multiple agencies involved and there is liaison with the county council over a road and the fire station. We have a changing specification as well. There are numerous complications. The fact that the project only changed last year indicates that it will take some time.

There has been engagement with the county council in respect of the planning, preparation and design. Will the Minister of State clarify whether it will be a county council application? Will it be an OPW Part 9 fast-track process? Can such a fast-track process be used? We have seen so much lost time on the project over several years. Could the fast-track process be used to move this along? How soon will we be able to see the much-needed Garda station project advance to planning and tender? Can the Minister of State clarify that, please?

An Garda Síochána has not yet signed off on the design. The project cannot be sent for planning permission until An Garda Síochána signs off on it.

The Deputy asked about the form of planning application, who will lodge it and whether we will use a traditional planning application or a fast-track process. I will ask the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, to contact him directly on the matter. I apologise as I do not have that information to hand.