A long-serving county councillor has accused the Department of Education of turning its back on an east Cork village by failing to provide it with a national school.
Noel Collins said the village of Ballinacurra, 5km from Midleton, is “desperately in need” of a primary school to meet the demands of a large and increasing population.
Historically speaking, he said, the village was established hundreds of years before its near neighbour, a famed distillery town.
The Independent councillor said Ballinacurra never had a school but its rapidly increasingly population now stood at 3,000.
In recent weeks, a further 20 families moved into a new apartment complex at Maple Wood in the village, once again underlining local demands for a primary school.
Over two years, planning permission had been approved for a 16-roomed house which would have catered adequately at the time for Ballinacurra’s education needs, at national school level.
However, an Bord Pleanála overturned the planning permission on the grounds of drainage and traffic management concerns, raised by residents close to the proposed site.
Mr Collins said that the department should have persevered instead of abandoning the project outright.
“The issues raised could have been easily resolved but, instead, the department abandoned the people,” said Mr Collins.
“The proposal had the support of 99% of locals, including all TD’s and county councillors. I believe the process should be restarted.”
To compound matters, it has been claimed that the department did not proceed with the purchase of the proposed 6.5-acre site.
The department, in response to a query by Cork East Sinn Féin TD Sandra McLellan, advised the purchase of the development site from Nama had been cancelled following the planning board’s decision.
Prior to former education minister Ruairí Quinn vacating office, a petition with 400 names demanding action on the proposed new school, had been delivered to him.
Oliver Parsons of Ballinacurra Residents Group said the ex-minister had pledged to examine the matter.
“But we never heard anything back,” he said.
Mr Parsons said he fully supports Mr Collins’ demands for the department to reactivate the proposed project.
He said Ballinacurra “must be the only village of its size in the country without a school”.
“We have scores of cars from the village converging on a national primary route every day, adding to traffic congestion every morning and afternoon, as the children are dispersed to and collected from six different schools in the area,” said Mr Parsons
As a leading member of the local GAA club, he revealed that 17 children from the club’s under-12 team attend six different schools, despite being neighbours.
Mr Parsons said the young players regularly end up on opposing teams due to school affiliations.
He said the absence of a school has accentuated his fears for the village’s future.
Traditionally, he said, Ballinacurra was independent from Midleton.
“But now we have no post office since 2011 and no playground,” said Mr Parsons. “The GAA has the solitary hall and we are slowly losing our identity.
“No community should suffer that.”
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