New Ardclough school lost in planning black hole

A BIZARRE bureaucratic planning situation is preventing 235 students and teachers in Ardclough from moving into a brand new 16-classroom school.

A BIZARRE bureaucratic planning situation is preventing 235 students and teachers in Ardclough from moving into a brand new 16-classroom school.

When the sod was turned by then Minister Aine Brady way back in January 2011 on a new building for St. Anne’s school, it was expected that it would be ready in 12 months, and the teachers and pupils could move in by last Christmas.

That was not to be.

More recently it was expected that the building would be ready by this month, but principal Patrica King has told the Leinster Leader that they are “disappointed and sad” to be back in the old building while “a beautiful new building lies empty up the road”.

They are currently accommodated in a combination of prefabs and a 1949 building.

The problem is that the contract which was given to the builder to construct the school was not the same as the planning permission that was granted by Kildare County Council.

As a result, while the builder has completed the contract, the school is technically incomplete from a planning point of view - and the Department of Education and Skills will not take over a building that has not fulfilled its planning permission requirements.

In fact, in a surreal twist, it’s technically possible that the new building could be made an “unauthorised development”.

The difference between the contract and the planning relates to pedestrian access between the school and the village of Ardclough which is a few hundred metres from the village centre.

“Somebody somewhere needs to step up and make a pragmatic decision,” said an exasperated local TD Emmet Stagg.

“You have a brand new very expensive state of the art school down the road when children are attending to a well-below substandard school.

“We fought for years for that school. That’s madness.”

There are a couple of potential solutions to the matter. It’s possible that they could apply for retention for the school. However Deputy Stagg said he believed the County Manager could make a managerial order “correcting the situation”, and he favoured that approach.

“It bedevil’s logical thinking that all of the agencies involved can’t solve this matter. It’s now a matter of urgency now that it is resolved,” he added.

Principal Patricia King told the Leinster Leader yesterday morning, Monday, September 3, that the school community was “putting our best foot forward here.

“We’re welcoming the students to the school and they’ll be given the same excellent education here that they always got.

“I expect the Department will let us know when we can move in. At the moment these are not ideal conditions.”

And she revealed that a new teacher started work at the school yesterday and had no classroom to go to.

“We were very sad when we were told to get the old buildings ready,” Ms. King explained, adding that she hoped the matter could be resolved shortly.

The site for the new school was purchased in July 2006 and a previous Minister for Education gave approval for the project to proceed to construction and tender in February 2009.

- Conor McHugh and Henry Bauress