Thursday, 20 October 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
104. Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position of the application for grant aid for a project (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason funding has not been allocated to date; his views on the provision of such projects through a public private partnership arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29948/05]
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue): A feasibility report, representing the first stage in the process, was submitted by Galway County Council for a pool in Loughrea and was assessed as being in order from a technical perspective in 1999. However, due to the limited funds available under the local authority swimming pool programme at that time, the county council was advised that it could be some time before funding might be made available for the project.
In 2001, the then Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation gave approval for appointment of consultants for the preparation of the preliminary report. However, in 2002, the Department was informed that a proposal involving an alternative site was being considered and that the process of appointing consultants for preliminary report and design was under way.
In 2004, Galway County Council submitted a tender proposal seeking a grant from the local authority swimming pool programme for a project promoted by a private sector interest to construct a leisure centre, including a swimming pool, on a council site different from that initially recommended in the 1999 feasibility report. The normal procedure under the local authority swimming pool programme is that ministerial approval should first be sought at each of the preliminary and contract document stages, before tenders are invited for a project. Notwithstanding the fact that Galway County Council did not follow this process, my Department indicated to the county council that it would be prepared to examine the proposal on its merits and this examination is under way.
It is a matter for local authorities to devise funding and operational arrangements, as they see fit, for the provision of public swimming facilities in their areas. Experience shows that there is potential for private sector involvement in the provision and operation of local authority swimming pool facilities and many local authorities are exploring various ways of involving the private sector in their projects. From my Department’s perspective, there is no objection to the involvement of the private sector. However, in order to qualify for grant assistance under the programme, local authorities must satisfy themselves that the project meets the generally accepted operational considerations of a public pool in terms of public availability, charges, access for disadvantaged and so forth. This is normally achieved in consultation with the appropriate county or city development board.
105. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a formal application has been made to his Department by Cork City Council for funding to improve a swimming pool (details supplied); when such an application was made; and the status of this application. [29966/05]
Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism (Mr. O’Donoghue): Under the local authority swimming pool programme, which is administered by my Department, grant aid is provided towards the capital costs of new pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. The closing date for receipt of applications under the current programme was 31 July 2000. As I indicated in my replies to Question No. 181 of 1 February 2005 and Question No. 197 of 22 February 2005, asked by Deputies Coveney and Lynch respectively, no application was made by Cork City Council in respect of the Gus Healy swimming pool in Douglas before that date. The council has also been so advised on various occasions. However, in 2002, Cork City Council submitted a feasibility study for a proposed development of the pool and the council was advised that the proposal could not be considered for funding under the pool programme as it was received outside the closing date for applications. This remains the position.
The priority for the programme is to support the proposals on hand and new proposals for swimming pools are not being considered at this time. My Department, however, is carrying out an expenditure review on the swimming pool programme, which is examining, among other things, how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built under the existing programme and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme. It is expected that this review will be completed by the end of the year when the question of reopening the swimming pool programme can be considered.
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