Councillors vote down rezoning site for school

CORK’S city councillors were under fire last nightafter they voted againstrezoning a site for a new gaelscoil.

The vote effectively means that the 300 students of Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn in Montenotte — the city’s first multi-denominational gaelscoil — will continue to be taught in what have been described as “ramshackle” conditions.

The Department of Education, which has been working on the project for almost five years, which cleared funding and sought planning permission for the new school this year, will now have to go back to the drawing board.

Last night’s vote to rezone a 2.3 portion of the 11-acre Tank Field was watched by more than 100 people who packed into City Hall’s public gallery.

Councillors were asked to rezone the 2.3-acre portion from sports ground zoning that would give the Department of Education planning permission for the new school.

The meeting heard that the controversial rezoning was one of the most emotive to come before council in recent years and that it has split the community.

The meeting was also told that the crucial vote was the last stage of a process which councillors embarked upon over two years ago.

City manager Joe Gavin outlined how the council had in March 2005 agreed to sell a specified area of land at the Tank Field to the gaelscoil for the development of a new school.

In February 2006, councillors agreed to a process to realign Brian Dillons’ GAA pitches on the Tank Field to ensure that no sporting amenities were lost, he said.

The department then lodged a planning application for the 2.3-acre site for an ultra-modern two-storey 16-classroom school.

However, a material contravention of the city development plan would be needed.

During the course of a lengthy debate, Cllr Damien Wallace (FF) said he felt councillors had a “moral obligation” to proceed with the process.

“We are on the third rung of the process,” he said.

Cllr John Kelleher (Lab) said: “We can’t say no to 300 children waiting expectantly for a new school.”

Responding to questions, however, Mr Gavin said he had indicated to the department that other sites could be available if the rezoning of the Tank Field site failed.

Despite advice from senior planners, and despite agreeing to the previous steps, 13 councillors voted against the rezoning.

They are Fianna Fáil’s Terry Shannon, Tim Brosnan, Tom O’Driscoll, Mary Shields and Tony Fitzgerald, Fine Gael’s Patricia Gosch, Brian Bermingham, Denis Cregan and Jim Corr, Labour’s Mick O’Connell and Denis O’Flynn, Independent Dave McCarthy and Green Chris O’Leary.

Mr O’Leary and Mr Corr said they could not support the rezoning of a sports ground.

Reamonn Ó Riann, secretary of the school’s board of management, said parents were devastated with the outcome.

“The vote means the children will have to continue being taught in prefabs,” he said.

“It’s so hard to get money out of the department. When we got on the building list, we thought all the hard work was done. Parents are just so devastated,” he added.

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