The Department of Education’s annual €30m budget for school sites could need to be doubled by its recent agreement to buy a Dublin greyhound track, a Fianna Fáil TD claims.
Education Minister Richard Bruton declined to confirm reports that the sale price agreed with Bord na gCon for the planned purchase of Harold’s Cross track was €23m.
The deal was announced by the minister a fortnight ago, although the price was not stated, as a planned location for new schools to be built in response to local population growth.
He told the Oireachtas select education committee that site purchases account for around €30m of his €515m schools capital budget this year and the deal would be “a significant, expensive site”.
The minister was responding to Fianna Fáil education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, who said it is unsustainable for sites to be sold at such prices because of the knock-on effect on funding available for the actual building of schools.
“It just seems like a massive amount of money and I understand you’re being forced to pay in that particular part of Dublin,” Mr Byrne said.
“We support the provision of schools and we understand the predicament you are in finding yourself in, in terms of finding sites for schools. But how much of the capital budget is being eaten into by land costs?” he asked.
He asked the minister if the Harold’s Cross deal would, in fact, double the department’s land costs.
Mr Bruton said it would not but the trend of growing land costs are set to continue.
Having fallen to half what they once were before reaching a low point in 2013, he said, they have substantially increased since 2013.
The minister said site purchases now account for a little bit over 5% of the schools’ capital budget.
“Obviously, Harold’s Cross is an expensive area of the city to acquire land… But it is becoming more expensive, both from building costs and from site costs.
“But we are getting additional budget to respond to population pressures, but it does obviously inhibit our ability to do other things, that’s just the way it is,” Mr Bruton said.
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