A Department of Education planning application for a three-school campus in a rapidly expanding Co Cork town has been rejected by county council planners because it contained a litany of mistakes.
County councillors reacted angrily to the news and laid the finger of blame squarely at the department's door.
The population of Carrigtwohill has grown so rapidly in recent years that its two primary and one secondary school are having to turn away pupils.
The department drew up plans for a new campus which would cater for three new schools. One primary school was to have 24 classrooms, the other 16 and the secondary school was to house 700 pupils.
Plans were supposed to have been lodged several months ago, but were held up because some “tweeking was needed”. However, when they were eventually lodged council planners noticed a number of discrepancies and were forced to reject them.
Carrigtwohill-based Cllr Anthony Barry had standing orders suspended at a meeting in County Hall to discuss the issue.
He said he had become aware last Thursday that the council's planning department had declared the application invalid.
Cllr Barry said there were a number of elementary mistakes in the application, such as the site notice did not contain details of where an environmental impact assessment could be viewed. In addition, the number of parking spaces and buildings square footage did not reflect the numbers of pupils and staff proposed for the campus.
“There were also numerous discrepancies with the drawings,” he said. “It's outrageous that the application should have been so sloppy.” Cllr Barry said that the secondary school was currently operating in a commercial centre, which was not ideal. “It's in a former office block and surrounded by portocabins. The two primary schools also have a lot of portocabins,” he said.
He pointed out that Carrigtwohill was not only one of the fastest growing towns in the county, but in the country and the three new schools are vital.
With space at a premium, he said children were being forced to seek schooling outside the town and this had the knock-on effect of putting huge pressure on other schools in the East Cork region.
As a result of the planning application being declared invalid Cllr Barry said he was “afraid that it will lead to another six month delay”. He added that while people in Carrigtwohill complained about infrastructure deficits in the town, the schools issue was top of the list. Cllr Padraig O'Sullivan said he was also very concerned about the situation, pointing out that he is a member of the board of management of the secondary school.
“We're in a commercial park at present. We had 140 kids on the waiting list last year and were only able to take in 60 or 70,” he said.
Like Cllr Barry, Cllr O'Sullivan urged the county council to write to the Minister for Education asking him to ensure the planning application was tidied up and resubmitted as a matter of urgency.
Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy said he recognised the issues and promised to contact the Department of Education.