National children’s hospital building work may be delayed

Sewer under site at St James’s Hospital may have to be rerouted at cost of €18m

Building of the proposed new national children’s hospital may not be able to start until a sewer running under the site is rerouted at a cost of €18 million, according to sources close to the project.

The Drimnagh combined sewer, which serves suburbs in the southwest of Dublin, runs directly under the site of the project at St James's Hospital. Initial planning suggests the pipe will have to be moved because of the size of the proposed building, which will be at least eight storeys high, including two underground storeys to accommodate 1,000 cars.

19th-century church

A 19th-century church and graveyard also lie on the site, though the church is not a protected structure.

Education and research buildings which formed part of the children’s hospital project when it was going to be built at the Mater hospital may now be dropped from the initial construction phase. This is to keep the project cost within the funding envelope available.

The development of a new children’s hospital has been beset by repeated controversies and delays.

The Government’s flagship building project was originally promised for 2016, but is likely to be completed three years late.

A spokesman for the project confirmed that the Drimnagh sewer does run under the site and that the new hospital would connect to it.

Because of the confined nature of the site at St James’s Hospital, the vast majority of parking will be provided underground. In common with other hospitals, it will be run on commercial lines.

The spokesman said the church on the site would be replaced by a new “multifaith centre” currently in construction in a more central location on the hospital campus. The church will be demolished.

Planning delayed

In April, it emerged that the submission of a planning application had been delayed and would not happen this year as originally planned. It is expected to happen in February 2015, and transfer of services for the existing three children’s hospitals in Dublin is scheduled to take place “at the end of 2018”.

The project was originally awarded to the Mater hospital but An Bord Pleanála refused permission to build on this site. In late 2012, the Government announced that the 469-bed facility would be built at St James's, despite planning concerns about the site and the opposition of paediatricians who argued that a children's hospital needed to be located adjacent to the Coombe maternity hospital.

The Government has committed €200 million from the sale of the National Lottery to the project, as part of a €450 million investment of State funds.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times