VEC defend Piper’s Hill investment

THE development of the multi milion euro education campus at Piper’s Hill, Kilcullen Road, Naas, has been defended by County Kildare Vocational Education Committee - despite a cost to the taxpayer of about €20m.

THE development of the multi milion euro education campus at Piper’s Hill, Kilcullen Road, Naas, has been defended by County Kildare Vocational Education Committee - despite a cost to the taxpayer of about €20m.

The sale of the old vocational school site at Newbridge Road to Superquinn at the height of the Celtic Tiger era property boom should have provided the VEC with €23m.

Superquinn’s owners bought the site with the intention of moving the store there along with a cinema and other retail units.

But that company went out of business and the VEC received only the deposit – perhaps 10% of the agreed price.

In the meantime the VEC proceeded with the development of Piper’s Hill which embraced other schools as well as the vocational school.

“If the sale had gone ahead as agreed it would have been the icing on the cake. As it was the fact that the Superquinn’s then owners did not go ahead was completely beyond the control of the VEC,” Mr. Ashe told the Leader yeasterday (February 13).

He said that the shortfall which arose when the deal did not go through was met by the Department of Education and Skills.

But he also pointed out that the total asset at Piper’s Hill is worth €56.9m and cost just €29.9m to build.

“We can look at this positively or negatively. There was as deficit of €20m. But it should also be pointed out that a new vocational school in Naas was needed anyway and we also had land valued at €20m. Which we got free gratis and for nothing,” Mr. Ashe added.

The land he refers to is the site at Piper’s Hill which came to the VEC as part of a wider planning deal.

The County Kildare VEC was last week probed by the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee about the money spent on Piper’s Hill in the context of an examination of the VEC’s accounts for 2010.

VEC chairman Paddy Kennedy also pointed out that while the sale of the Newbridge Road site did not go ahead, the educational body got the Kilcullen Road land for nothing.

“We had no control over what happened to Superquinn and the Department of Education effectively came up with the money,” Cllr. Kennedy told the Leader.

He further pointed out that other VECs around the country are facing questions about expenditure - not just Co. Kildare.

“The issues we have to face are not as serious as those facing other VECs,” added Cllr. Kennedy.