Pupils due to attend a new primary school near Togher in Cork in September are facing uncertainty after An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for a temporary site for the facility.
The Department of Education will have to seek alternative plans for the new Educate Together primary school in the autumn as its plans to locate it near an industrial estate were rejected over concerns it would pose a traffic hazard.
The department had sought permission for the change of use of Forge House at Forge Hill, Ballycurreen, from offices to a temporary two-storey school for a maximum period of five years.
Part of the building, which was previously known as Campbell House, is currently used as a centre by Down Syndrome Ireland.
The Department of Education had identified Forge House as an interim, start-up location for the new school while it sources a permanent site for the school in the Glasheen/Pouladuff area.
However, An Bord Pleanála has rejected an appeal by the department against the decision of Cork Council to refuse planning permission for the use of Forge House as a temporary site for the school.
The board said it would not be capable of being accessed safely from its catchment area by either walking or cycling, while it noted there was also no convenient bus service available for pupils.
It said teachers and pupils attending the school would be reliant on getting there by car rather than using sustainable modes of transport with adverse implications for the environment and public health.
The planning appeals authority said the Department of Education had failed to demonstrate that the existing entrance to the building was capable of being operated satisfactorily for dropping-off pupils, particularly during morning peak times. It considered that its use as a temporary school would represent a traffic hazard that posed a danger to public safety.
The board also ruled that the proposed use would contravene the Cork County Development Plan as it would introduce new and different traffic movements, particularly during the morning peak.
The Department of Education argued that the temporary building would have catered for junior and senior infants and first class who were typically driven to school regardless of location because of their age. However, An Bord Pleanála said the department’s view did not address the possibility that some pupils might not have access to lifts in cars.
The department said there was an impetus for the new school because of the large number of new homes in the nearby Manor Farm estate. It also claimed that vehicles accessing the school would only account for 5% of all traffic on Forge Hill which it said was operating well below capacity.
The choice of location for the temporary school was also opposed by local Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, who said it was an “utterly unsafe” location, as there were large sections of Forge Hill without any footpaths.
The department confirmed the school will open in suitable interim accommodation in a building in Coláiste Stiofan Naofa, Tramore Rd, Cork city. Patron body Educate Together has been advised of this and in turn advised the parents of pupils enrolled.