Monday 22 August 2011

‘Sectional interests’ put ahead of public in school planning decision

A CORK city councillor has claimed that sectional interests were put ahead of the public interest in previous decisions relating to a planning application for a gaelscoil on the city’s northside.

Cllr Tim Brosnan made his remarks in an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, asking it to uphold the recent vote of Cork City Council not to rezone part of the Tank Field in Mayfield for a 16-classroom school. He wrote that the last time the case was up for decision, the planning inspector who reviewed the case, councillors and the Cork city development plan were overridden by the board.

In 2007, the first application for the new building for Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn did not give enough votes from councillors to change the zoning of the field from sports use and allow the project proceed.

But An Bord Pleanála overturned that decision and granted permission in March 2008, despite the recommendation of its own inspector to refuse planning permission.

The Department of Education had to submit plans to move the building slightly last March after difficulties emerged about moving GAA goalposts on the pitches under overhead power cables. The council again refused permission last month when members voted against rezoning the site, but the department has appealed the decision.

In his appeal, the Fianna Fáil councillor who represents the council ward where the Tank Field is located, claimed that An Bord Pleanála’s 2008 decision benefited the department, the coffers of Cork City Council, the GAA and the children who need a school.

"Who lost — the elected representatives of Cork City Council, the children who need a place to play, the public who have had a right of way for a long time. Yes, sectional interests won — supported by An Bord Pleanála," Cllr Brosnan wrote.

The Department of Education’s appeal claims the rezoning vote last month was not necessary as the new application was merely to modify plans already approved by the board. It also argued that the provision of a new school building for the gaelscoil, which is in prefabs on the grounds of Brian Dillon's GAA club next to the Tank Field, was of strategic importance.

But Cllr Brosnan’s appeal said "the notion that the building of a school in an area with massive overcapacity in primary sector can be classed as ‘strategic’ in a bankrupt country is perverse to say the least".

"The public interest in sustainable planning requires the preservation of all the Tank Field as a sports area. It requires that the Department of Education manage its affairs judiciously and makes best use of the resources it already has in the area," he wrote.

He suggested that the availability of alternative sites be considered by An Bord Pleanála.

Irish Examiner

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