Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly has expressed frustration after it’s emerged a new extension and refurbishment for St David’s secondary school in Greystones could be delayed for another three years.
Deputy Donnelly explained, “Planning permission was granted in September 2016 by Wicklow County Council for the upgrade that’s badly needed. It would include a new sports centre, five new classrooms, a new technology room and a media room.
Objections to the development by locals, who were worried about the building’s height and traffic impact, were examined by An Bord Pleanála but it went ahead with planning permission in July 2017. Finally funding was approved in December last year by the Department of Education. And yet pupils and staff are still waiting for building to commence.
“I’ve been working alongside St David’s principal Mary O’Doherty who is growing impatient at repeated delays to get the works started. She began the planning process back in 2012 and was told the building phase should take around 21 months to conclude. When it looked inevitable that was not going to happen, I immediately began asking questions of the Minister for Education. Initially I submitted Parliamentary Questions to try to force the department to provide answers. I then stepped up the action by calling for a meeting in person with the Minister Richard Bruton. Since my first request there has been a Cabinet reshuffle, we now have a new Minister for Education in Joe Mc Hugh, and yet still no meeting.
“Perhaps the most frustrating aspect for both Mary and myself has been the repeated cancellations of planned meetings. The latest meeting, which was supposed to take place in the Minister’s office last Wednesday, was called off just hours before we sat down together. A phone call was offered in lieu with a mid-ranking official from the Education Department and during the course of that conversation I pressed for a timeline for construction. It appears now that contractors may not be on site until 2020 or 2021.
“At this stage it has to be said the delay is simply unacceptable. Planning permission has been granted. The funding is in place. It should be a straight forward process of letting builders do the work. Remember every day that passes sees pupils spending their their education in an outdated premises that’s not fit for purpose. Anyone who has been offered a place will still be enrolled, but more than 100 other pupils are being turned away each year. It really is a shame that a school as well-run and popular as St David’s can’t open its doors to everyone”, concluded Donnelly.