Bord Pleanala decision 'disappointing'
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Government remains absolutely committed to provide a national children’s hospital within its lifetime despite a decision from An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for it to be built on the Mater campus site in Dublin.
Mr Kenny said the Government made a “deliberate conscious” decision to go ahead with the project based on specific funding platform and that it would “happen in the lifetime of this Government.”
An Bord Pleanála refused permission for the hospital to be built in Dublin city centre saying it would “constitute overdevelopment” of the Mater site and would “be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said while the decision represented a “setback” and put the proposed opening date of 2016 under pressure it was merely a delay.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore later told the Dáil the Mater site had not been ruled out.
“On my initial reading of the decision it appears it has to do with the height and scale of the development, that will have to be looked to see if some changes can be made that would satisfy Bord Pleanála in a subsequent application.”
He said it is “a great pity so many years were wasted” in the creation of the plans but that the Government has to reflect on the bord’s decision and “move forward.”
Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív called on the Government to define the National Children’s Hospital as critical infrastructure under the Planning and Development Act and allow the development proceed on the Mater site.
He said: “We do not have time to waste, this issue is above politics and must be sorted as soon as possible.”
Independent TD Finian McGrath said the decision was a “bad day” for families, staff and for jobs and capital investment in the north side of Dublin.
“Once again it shows that sick children are paying the price for the gross incompetence of others,” he added.
Mary O’Connor of Children in Hospital Ireland said she was shocked at the decision saying that it will have a “profound negative impact on the delivery of health care for the sick children”.
She said: “Staff in our current stretched and inadequate children’s hospital facilities will continue to struggle to provide a 21st century service in 20th century buildings not suitable for a modern health service.”
The Faculty of Paediatrics at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland also expressed disappointment at the decision saying the matter needs to be resolved “as a matter of urgency”.
Louis Roden of the New Crumlin Hospital Group said the delay would be detrimental to the health of children.
“We have been lobbying for a new children’s hospital to be built anywhere that the experts told us to…We have been at that for 10 years, we have met three ministers for health and we’re still waiting.”
Mr Roden said his group “did not care” where the hospital is built so long as it was done where experts said.
“The bottom line here is all the international experts came back saying it should be the Mater site, end of story.
“If this comes back to a different site that isn’t co-located with an adult teaching hospital our children are going to be treated in inferior conditions,” he added.
And former HSE chief executive Brendan Drumm agreed. Speaking on RTE radio Mr Drumm said “if somebody can come with a site that fulfils the international recommendations that gives children of Ireland the best care, then let’s do that, but let’s not settle for second best”.
The site of the €650 million hospital has been dogged with controversy from the beginning, with many parties concluding its co-location on the Mater hospital site was too restrictive, poorly accessible and out of character with the Georgian architecture in the area.
In its decision An Bord Pleanála’s found the proposed development would “constitute overdevelopment” of the Mater site and would “be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
Groups opposed to the development welcomed the finding. In a statement An Taisce said it marked “one of the most significant planning decisions” in An Bord Pleanála’s history.
“In effect, the board is maintaining Dublin's predominant low-rise character and its tourism cache, upon which so much revenue depends."
“The board's decision itself raises serious questions as to why a State-appointed board and its professional advisers wasted so much time and money in pursuing such an unsuitable development proposal,” the statement added.
Richie O'Reilly of the Tallaght Hospital Action group said the refusal of planning permission meant “at long last political cronyism was beaten”.
Mr O’Reilly said the Mater site was “too small and impossible to get into”. And he said while he feel’s sorry for north side of the city losing out on a hospital it should be built in Tallaght which has better Luas and road connections.
The Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation also welcomed the decision saying the Mater was “always the wrong site to accommodate the needs of a modern children’s hospital”.
“What we need now is an urgent debate to choose the right location and to ensure that the Government doesn’t use this refusal as an excuse to push this project way down the line,” chief executive Jonathan Irwin said.