Government to build scaled back hospital
Published 24/02/2012 | 05:00
THE Government is to scale back plans for the National Children's Hospital to allow it be built on the same site that was rejected by planners yesterday.
Health Minister James Reilly last night insisted that the project would go ahead on the preferred site at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, but admitted that a smaller version was likely to be built.
The move will fuel further controversy, because opponents have always insisted that the 445-bed specialist children's hospital should be built on a bigger site on the outskirts of the city.
Some €35m has already been spent on the project, which was refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanala because it was too big for the site.
Dr Reilly was adamant the hospital would be built in the lifetime of the Government.
"The Government is absolutely committed to this project. We want this to happen," he said.
"The refusal was not based on grounds of access or transport, and it confirms the principle of co-location on an adult site."
He said he had asked Dr Frank Dolphin, the former chairman of Temple Street Hospital, to examine the decision and report back "in a matter of weeks".
Now architects and planners will begin developing an alternative proposal, which could include removing training facilities from the plan to reduce its scale.
But the Government is also considering changing the planning laws, which would allow An Bord Pleanala to guide developers.
The board can only accept or reject a project, and the Government is looking at changing the system to allow planners to give advice on matters including height and scale.
However, while an alternative plan is drawn up, the monthly costs will continue to mount.
Consultants appointed to deliver the project will be paid up to €30,000 a month until a decision is made on the stalled project. Then they will have to redesign the complex, which was originally due to open this year, but will now go beyond the latest 2016 deadline.
The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board was set up in 2007 to deliver the state-of-the-art €650m specialist children's hospital which would amalgamate the three existing facilities in Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght.
Temple Street and Crumlin are unsuitable for modern medical needs.
The Mater site was chosen because it was beside an adult hospital which would provide additional, specialist services.
But the plans were thrown out yesterday by An Bord Pleanala, which criticised the developers for not taking into account the impact the hospital would have on the historic Eccles Street area.
It would result in "a dominant, visually incongruous structure and would have a profound negative impact on the appearance and visual amenity of the city skyline".
The €650m specialist children's facility would have been the biggest building project in the State, providing thousands of construction jobs and 3,000 posts when complete. It will be funded by charitable donations and the proceeds of selling the National Lottery licence.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged the hospital was a "priority" and would be built, but Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore conceded an alternative site might now have to be looked at.
Options could include Tallaght Hospital or a greenfield site near Newlands Cross in Dublin.