Tuesday 24 October 2017

St James's children's hospital bid gets boost

Fionnan Sheahan and Eilish O'Regan

THE possibility of St James's being chosen as the site for the new national children's hospital has been boosted after positive comments from Dublin City Council about the chances of getting planning permission.

The local authority said it was satisfied that proposals to build the children's hospital, "within the city boundaries can work from the planning and infrastructure perspective."

Although it did not name any site, the council said choosing a city site would allow for public transport and other facilities to be used.

However, despite the statement from the Council it acknowledged that "no one can be definitive on the planning aspect of any site at this stage because the final arbiter will be An Bord Pleanala. This applies to sites both within and outside the jurisdiction of Dublin City Council."

St James's Hospital is believed to have edged to the top of the short list being considered by the Government -- but the fear is that it will become bogged down in planning objections and delays.

The other contenders remain Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, surrounded by 150 acres, and the Coombe Maternity Hospital, which is in the south inner city.

A recommendation on the location is due to go before the Cabinet next week but the Government remains uneasy that a city site will become another "money pit" like the failed bid to build the children's hospital on the Mater campus, taking €33m of taxpayers' money without a sod being turned.

The unpublished report of an expert group, chaired by businessman Frank Dolphin, which analysed over 40 bids, is understood to say St James's hospital was suitable as a site if based on medical criteria, because of the range of specialties it had.

Advantage

The 80-page Dolphin review said Connolly Hospital had the advantage when it comes to design and planning, offering the best potential for more construction and a landscape setting.

However, the adult hospital did not have a complete range of specialties and it would need a lot of investment in both building and staff over time, possibly decades in some cases, to fully meet these requirements.

The report also sees advantages in the amount of space offered by the Coombe Hospital bid, which has 20 acres of land near the Luas Red line.

The hospital's bed includes two sites on the South Circular Road owned by construction firm Players Square Ltd. The sites, now in NAMA, were to be used for a €120m apartment development.

Irish Independent

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