Talks to convert former seminary and hurling school into new Gaelscoil and housing

Talks to convert former seminary and hurling school into new Gaelscoil and housing

Talks have taken place about rezoning part of a former seminary and famous hurling school on the northside of Cork city to provide new homes and a new gaelscoil.

Planning consultants acting on behalf of the Farranferris Foundation, which manages the Farranferris campus off Redemption Road on behalf of the Diocese of Cork and Ross, met with senior officials of Cork City Council to outline their new proposals for the site which includes the protected former seminary building, which dates from 1887, and several sports pitches.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of preparatory work by City Hall on the drafting of a new city development plan. But because that review could take up to two years, the Foundation says it is seeking a variation of the current city plan to allow their proposed amendments to be implemented in the short term.

News of the talks is contained in an entry on the Register of Lobbying, which shows that on November 12, Brian McCutcheon, of chartered planning consultancy, McCutcheon-Halley, and Ferghal Reidy and Adrienne Rodgers of Cork City Council.

Mr Reidy is the council’s director of strategic and economic development, and Ms Rodgers is the council’s director of Community, Culture and Placemaking.

The entry states that Mr McCuthceon is acting for clients, the Farranferris Foundation, a charity which has an address at the Cork and Ross Diocesan Office on Redemption Road.

The entry says the current zoning objectives for the former seminary are not entirely consistent with the extant planning permission on the site or the Blackpool Local Area Plan, and that while the residential element of the extant planning permission is under construction, there is no longer a demand for some of the permitted education and training uses on the site.

The foundation said it is now considering relocating one of the already permitted educational buildings on the Farranferris site to provide a new gaelscoil, and it also considering changing some of the permitted training areas on the site to residential. But no detail has been provided on the amount or nature of residential units being considered.

Farranferris, a former seminary, then boarding and secondary school which became one of the country’s great hurling schools, closed to students in 2006 but the site has continued its tradition of education and training.

It has been home for several years to Northside Community Enterprises which offers training and education opportunities designed to help long-term unemployed return to full time employment.

In 2007, on foot of a request from the diocese, Farranferris Foundation member, the developer Michael O’Flynn who is also a past-pupil of Farranferris, was involved in the preparation of a detailed development blueprint for the campus.

However, the city council prepared its own Farranferris LAP in 2009 for the wider area and in 2012, planning was granted for up to 100,000 sq ft of buildings, most for educational and training use, a special needs school, and 78-homes on portions of the site.

But in 2018, the foundation sold a 10-acre parcel which had planning for 78-homes, with construction now underway.

Sinn Féin Cllr Thomas Gould, a member of the board of management of Gaelscoil Peig Sayers, based on the campus, welcomed the news that changes are being sought.

“We have been campaigning for a decade for a permanent home for the gaelscoil, which has seen student numbers soar from around 90 to 300 over the last eight years or so," he said.

"I would also hope that the current housing and whatever is being proposed would be of mixed tenure - a mix of social and affordable homes."

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