Close to 150 people attended a protest meeting in a small town in Co Cork yesterday aimed at stopping a planned housing development which villagers claim will inhibit future expansion of their national school.
Members of Cloughduv National School Parents' Association say that the school, which was opened in 1995, will be turned into a "prefab slum" if developer Owen O'Callaghan is allowed to go ahead with plans to construct 120 houses around the facility.
The chairwoman of Cloughduv NS, Dr Mary Groarke, insists the land surrounding the primary school should never have been zoned for residential development as it will be needed for continued expansion of the school.
The school has 159 pupils at present but Dr Groarke says that projected population growth in the area means that in a few years up to 2½ times that number could be enrolled.
She says that the school needs room to expand in order to avert a crisis in the provision of educational services in Cloughduv in future years.
"This school was a treasure that we fought hard to get. We don't want to end up with oversized classes, no play area and multiple prefabricated buildings," she said. Local people also wanted to ensure that their national school did not become "yet another symptom of a malfunctioning planning policy".
Dr Groarke points out that while the developer has to adhere to certain stipulations regarding water, sewerage, road infrastructure, local amenities and green areas, no obligations are in place to secure the educational facilities to service such new housing developments.
Last month, Cork County Council gave planning permission to Mr O'Callaghan when he modified his development after the council had received 56 objections to the application from parents, teachers, the school board of management, GPs and the local parish priest.
Villagers are adamant that the housing development will prevent the national school from being able to expand to meet the educational needs of Cloughduv's growing population.
Members of the parents' association say there are a number of developments at the planning application and appeal stage in Cloughduv and in the surrounding areas which will almost treble the number of schoolgoing children to 500 in the next 5-8 years.
A spokesman for Mr O'Callaghan said yesterday that the housing development was at an advanced stage of planning and it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter.
© 2007 The Irish Times