Thursday, 14 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
166. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when he expects the schools building programme to reflect the needs of areas experiencing a rapid increase in population; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19502/09]
Minister for Education and Science (Deputy Batt O’Keeffe): As the Deputy will be aware the Programme for Government contains a commitment to establish a Developing Areas Unit (DAU) to liaise with local authorities, identify where new schools are needed and ensure that they are delivered in the fastest possible timeframe. This Unit was established early in 2008 and delivered 27 major building projects last year in areas experiencing rapid population growth.
In addition to the establishment of the DAU, the Planning and Building Unit has restructured to reflect the changing environment in which it now operates. In the Deputy’s own constituency in County Kildare there are currently major building projects on site or progressing to site in Athgarvan, Athy, Kilcock, Kill, Maynooth, Naas, Newbridge, Nurney and Straffan. I’m sure the Deputy will agree that all of these projects are necessary and are meeting increased demands from areas experiencing rapid population growth in County Kildare.
Applications for school building projects are initially recorded and given a band rating to determine their order of priority. Projects with a band rating of 1 (generally projects in areas experiencing rapid growth) are given priority over projects with lower band ratings. Where funding permits other projects with lower band ratings are progressed on the school building programme. These projects would include refurbishment projects, extensions etc. Every school deserves to be treated equally and seek to have the best possible facilities available to their staff and pupils. If funding was limited to only those areas experiencing rapid population growth then there would be a regional imbalance in the school building programme which would be contrary to the Government’s spatial strategy. The current process ensures fairness and equity in the system and allows for a regional balance in the school building programme.
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