The board of management and staff at well-known secondary school, St Flannan’s College in Ennis have made a fresh bid to prevent a €25m HSE community hospital being built on diocesan-owned green space at the college.
This follows the College’s own Board of Management and Staff Members of St Flannan's College lodging separate third party appeals to An Bord Pleanala in their joint bid to try to prevent the 100 bed hospital on the seven acre green field college site getting the planning go-ahead.
Already, celebrated Clare All-Ireland winning hurlers amongst St Flannan’s College staff, four-time All-Star, Tony Kelly, double All-Ireland winner with Clare from the 1990s and well known hurling pundit, Jamesie O’Connor and key member of the 2013 Clare All-Ireland winning team, Brendan Bugler appended their names to a 75 strong group staff objection to the planned hospital lodged with Clare Co Council.
The HSE application was only made possible after it received the consent from landowners, the Diocese of Killaloe to lodge the planning application.
The diocese - led by Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan - has agreed to sell the lands to the HSE subject to planning permission.
A total of six third party appeals have been lodged against the Clare Co Council grant of permission. Others to lodge appeals are ‘Jim and Mary Wylde and others’ and individual appeals from Sean Walzer, Maura Walzer and Patrick Walzer.
The HSE has also lodged a first party appeal against condition(s) attached to the planning permission.
On behalf of the college Board of Management, a diocesan colleague of Bishop Monahan, School Principal Fr Ignatius McCormack has told the Council that “other suitable sites, which do not cut across existing intensive use by a large proportion of the youth of the area must be available".
Fr McCormack went on to state that “it surely cannot be the case that the provision of proper healthcare and the provision of sporting facilities for the youth of the area must be placed in conflict.”
In their objection, the staff told the Council that the hospital proposal “will have a seriously negative impact on the student population of St Flannan’s College”.
The staff stated that St Flannan’s College for the past two academic years has had its two largest ever enrolments with 240 1st Years each year.
They stated: “St Flannan’s College is the only school in the town with the potential to expand if needed. We believe that it would be incredibly short-sighted were the lands to be taken away from any future development.”
They further stated that “the green field site at St Flannan’s College is the last remaining of its kind in Ennis. Urban sprawl is taking up much more of our green spaces each year. Once built, this land will be gone forever.”
They stated that they understand the need for a new community hospital in Ennis “however, we believe that there are several more appropriate sites available for development”.
The staff at St Flannan’s College state that the playing fields at the college are used daily for sports for a variety of sports. They stated that “we believe that no other sporting facility in Ennis would be built upon as it is proposed for our developed playing pitches”.
In February, Fr Albert McDonnell on behalf of the diocese’s property arm, the St Flannan’s (Killaloe) Diocesan Trust provided a letter lodged with the Council which stated that the Trust do not intend to use the planned hospital site for the future development of the school.
Placing the diocese at odds with the St Flannan’s staff and board of Management, Fr McDonnell stated that “this area is on the periphery of the campus and in the event that the school requires expansion in the future, the Trust believes that there is ample space in the remaining lands for this to occur”.
After plans were lodged last year, Bishop Monahan said “this wonderful proposed development” by the HSE “will be of great benefit to our community”.
Bishop Monahan said that “the Diocese is very pleased to be able to facilitate the HSE in providing a state of the art facility for the benefit of the communities of Ennis and County Clare in general in a location which is ideal for such a facility”.
In recommending a grant of permission for the project last month, the Council planner's report stated that while there would appear to be some level of dispute between the landowners and the BOM of St Flannan’s College concerning the future intentions over the school's potential expansion, "this is not an issue that the planning authority can resolve”.
The planners’ report also noted objectors' claims regarding the diocese's ability to develop the site arising from conditions attached to the 1955 bequest of the lands to the diocese controlled St Flannan’s (Killaloe) diocesan Trust.