Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Hanafin's concern at objections to schools upgrading

It seems people even object to schools now. This by Sean Flynn in The Irish Times:

Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin has expressed concern about a new trend which has seen members of the public raise planning objections to new or upgraded school facilities. Until recently, she said, such objections were virtually unknown.
Ms Hanafin was speaking during a special briefing on the €32 billion education package in the new National Development Plan (NDP).
She said the objections raised - especially by those living in mature areas in Dublin and other major cities - was delaying the roll-out of some new school projects. She could understand people objecting to large-scale school developments providing for up to 1,000 pupils and the extra traffic this might generate.
However, she said, some applications for temporary accommodation like prefabs were drawing objections. "People are objecting to temporary accommodation which I cannot understand because it can offer an immediate response to the educational needs of children in their own community, " she said.
At present, the department is dealing with objections raised to school building plans in several counties including Kilkenny, Galway and Westmeath. Officials said objections usually come from long-established residents in well developed areas.
Meanwhile, the failure of the department's school-building programme to keep pace with rapidly developing areas in commuter towns in west Dublin, Kildare and Meath has been widely criticised.
Officials however said yesterday that new generic school designs and closer co-operation with local authorities would speed up the process. A series of meetings is ongoing between department officials and county managers to quicken the process of site-acquisition and planning.
Twenty-two sites have been purchased for school buildings in Dublin in the past year, most of them in rapidly growing areas.
More than €5 billion will be invested in school building and modernisation during the seven years of the NDP. Of this, €2.2 billion will go to primary schools, €1.6 billion to second-level with the balance made up of public private partnerships.
In all, there will be 100,000 additional places; this should meet the projected increase in the number of primary pupils over the next seven years.
The number of second-level pupils is also expected to increase dramatically from about 2012 but Ms Hanafin said there was sufficient surplus capacity in the second-level system to cope.

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