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Department of Education officials tried to block construction of over 3,000 homes over lack of school site

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Education officials have tried to block the construction of more than 3,000 homes, arguing they have nowhere to put a school for the children who will grow up there.

The Department of Education’s forward planning section wrote to An Bord Pleanála three times urging refusal of planning permission until a suitable school site was found.

Developers and planners insist there is no need for a new school, and planning permission has already been granted for more than 2,000 of the homes.

However, they are citing a 10-year-old local development plan in support of their stance. It was finalised during the construction slump.

The homes are planned in three separate but adjoining strategic housing developments (SHDs) in the fast-growing area of Baldoyle and Stapolin in north Dublin.

Two of the developments, totalling 2,103 apartments, got planning permission from An Bord Pleanála late last year.

The third, proposing a further 1,007 apartments, is currently before the planning body for decision.

The Department of Education objected each time, stressing the need to find a site for a post-primary school to serve “existing and future residents”.

In its objection to the most recent development, submitted earlier this month, the department rejects the school demand assessment report submitted by the developer.

“It should be noted that this school planning area is a large area encompassing Howth, Sutton, Baldoyle, Donaghmede, parts of Malahide and Portmarnock, as well as the adjoining rapidly growing area of Belmayne and Clongriffin which is subject to high density, compact development.

“Therefore, it is too crude an instrument to reliably gauge school place requirements for Baldoyle/Stapolin,” it said.

It added: “The department has been trying for some time now, without any success, to identify a site.”

The chair of the Oireachtas housing committee, Green Party TD Steven Matthews, said he had written to the Department of Education twice seeking a meeting to discuss the need for more joined-up planning of homes and schools because of similar issues in his own Wicklow constituency but he had received no response.

“There’s a lag between when the housing goes in and the school goes in and while it eventually usually catches up, it creates a huge amount of stress for parents,” he said.

“Over the years we had a slower pace of development, a couple of hundred houses here and a couple of hundred there, and there was more time to catch up but that’s no longer the case.”

The Department of Education said demand for four new schools was identified for the Baldoyle and neighbouring Clongriffin areas in 2018 and three of them, two primary and one post-primary, were at tender or planning stage.

A site for the second post-primary school could not be found, however, despite “an extensive site identification and assessment exercise carried out by the Department of Education in consultation with Fingal and Dublin City local authorities”.

Fingal County Council said it was not appropriate for it to comment but it did confirm that the Baldoye-Stapolin local area plan relied on by the developers and An Bord Pleanála was completed in 2013 and a review of it would not begin until next year.

The fast-track SHD mechanism is being phased out but will be replaced by a similar fast-track process managed by local authorities.

Mr Matthews said under the new process, developers should be made to provide more detailed and more realistic assessments of demand their projects would generate.

“They’re leaving a legacy problem behind for everybody else to deal with,” he said.


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