IDA Ireland accused of blocking building of school in Athenry

Almost €1 million already spent on plans for new Presentation College in Athenry

Athenry, Co Galway: frustration within the school community is now at “boiling point”  over halted construction of a new Presentation College secondary school. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

Athenry, Co Galway: frustration within the school community is now at “boiling point” over halted construction of a new Presentation College secondary school. Photograph: Paddy Whelan

 

IDA Ireland has been accused of putting undue pressure on the Department of Education to halt construction of a new secondary school in Athenry, Co Galway, when the project was already at a very advanced stage.

Almost €1 million had already been spent on the plans for the new school for Presentation College, Athenry, when a planning application was stalled more than three years ago.

The department has confirmed IDA Ireland had “concerns in relation to the proposed development of a school on the site in question and the potential impact on enterprise development”.

The school, with 1,133 students on its roll, is currently bursting at the seams, using 25 prefabricated buildings in addition to its existing premises, which was designed in the 1980s for 400 students and has no outdoor playing facilities.

Boiling point

Almost six years ago, the then principal was told by the department that the school should acquire a site if it wished to be included in a new building programme. An 8.2-hectare (20.3-acre) site on the outskirts of the town at Raheen woods was bought by the school’s trustee body, Ceist, in June 2012, after it was approved “in principle” by the department in July 2011. It is next to 97 hectares (240 acres) purchased by IDA Ireland from Teagasc.

The school’s board of management took out a loan for the purchase, which it is continuing to fund through voluntary contributions by parents.

Building programme

National Development Finance Agency

In March 2013, the school’s board became aware that the final planning application had not been submitted by the department to the local authority as IDA Ireland had indicated it would object.

The department has been attempting for the past three years to purchase an alternative site.

One option has been a 2.8-hectare (seven-acre) site in the middle of a residential area – 1.6 hectares (four acres) smaller than minimum size in its guidelines for a 1,000-pupil post-primary school.

The department said an “acquisition process is under way” and if this “does not complete”, it is open to meeting the IDA Ireland to discuss the original site “in the context of no other options being available”.

IDA Ireland echoed this in a statement, saying it had “actively engaged” with all relevant bodies associated with the proposed school development.