Children's hospital group to consider 15 new sites


Suddenly we’re teeming with locations for the national children’s hospital

THE LATEST offer by developer Flynn and O’Flaherty of an eight-acre site on Navan Road, free of charge, for the proposed children’s hospital brings to at least 15 the number of options now being considered by the review group appointed by Minister for Health James Reilly.

This followed An Bord Pleanála’s sensational decision, in February, to refuse planning permission for the proposal for the Mater hospital site in Dublin, on the grounds that its height, bulk, scale and mass would have a “profound negative impact” on Dublin’s skyline.

Flynn and O’Flaherty is not the first developer to offer a free site for the hospital. Solicitor and developer Noel Smyth has had an offer on the table, for some time, of a site off the Naas Road, at Newlands Cross, which would be conveniently close to Tallaght hospital.

One potential downside is that development would be restricted by the flight path into Casement Aerodrome, the military airfield at nearby Baldonnel. The Department of Defence would probably oppose taller than average buildings near by.

Dr Reilly told the Dáil last Tuesday that Nama had identified 11 possible sites for the children’s hospital on lands that it effectively controls through holding the debts associated with them. These include the former Irish Glass Bottle Company site in Ringsend.

The 24-acre site, which was bought for €412 million in 2006 by investors led by Bernard McNamara in partnership with Dublin Docklands Development Authority, would be large enough to accommodate children’s, maternity and adult hospitals.

The Nama list also includes Elm Park on Merrion Road, another McNamara-led development, where there is estimated to be at least 30,000sq m (322,917sq ft) of vacant apartment and office buildings. This is close to St Vincent’s hospital.

Another possible location identified by Nama is the former Player Wills factory on South Circular Road and the adjoining Bailey Gibson site, which amount to 11 acres. One of its clear advantages is its proximity to the Coombe maternity hospital on Cork Street, Dublin 8.

With the Coombe likely to fail the next Health Information and Quality Authority tests, according to sources, there will be a need to upgrade or relocate it over time. If a children’s hospital were built on the nearby site, the maternity facility could be kept where it is.

Another option proposed by Nama is a 24-acre parcel of land between North Wall Quay and Sheriff Street, which includes the skeleton of Anglo Irish Bank’s aborted headquarters. This is close to the Dublin Port tunnel and, through it, the M50.

It is also near Connolly Station and the Docklands terminus for commuter rail services and it is connected by Luas to both St James’s and Tallaght hospitals.

According to architect Albert Noonan, who made a submission on it to the review group, this site could easily accommodate a 130,000sq m (1,399,308sq ft) hospital complex of between five and eight storeys, with potential to expand by a further 120,000sq m (1,291,669sq ft).

The Nama list is also believed to include a substantial land bank adjoining Tallaght hospital, which incorporates the former national children’s hospital on Harcourt Street. It would be accessible from the M50 and Luas, and would fulfil the “co-location” criterion.

Separately from Nama, Fingal County Council is proposing the Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown as a site option. This would also co-locate adult and children’s medical services and be conveniently positioned in relation to the M50, via the M3.

St James’s Hospital is also in the running, as it occupies a site of 24 acres. In addition, another site in public ownership on St John’s Road, near Heuston Station, might be developed for a children’s hospital, with a 100m underground link to St James’s.

Another possible location is the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, on 34 acres and close to the Luas and M50. A decision has already been made to close this 162-year-old facility and relocate to St Ita’s Hospital in Portrane, in north Co Dublin.

The Minister told Eoghan Murphy TD (FG) that it was not necessarily part of the review group’s brief to examine every site. The group, which includes an architect and town planner, would give an indication of the “pros and cons” of either brownfield or greenfield sites, he said.