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Concerns over ongoing delays to Patrician Academy refurbishment

'Any further stalling of this process would be unacceptable'

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Flames leaping from the blazing Patrician Academy building in July 2016.

Flames leaping from the blazing Patrician Academy building in July 2016.

Flames leaping from the blazing Patrician Academy building in July 2016.

The Labour TD for Cork East, Deputy Seán Sherlock, has once again expressed his concern over the ongoing delay in securing planning permission for the refurbishment of the fire-damaged Patrician Academy in Mallow.

Deputy Sherlock was commenting after it emerged the Department of Education has responded to a request for further information in relation to the planning application - seven months after the request was made.

The Mallow based TD said he was concerned the delay in responding to the request could result in the August deadline set by Council planners for a ruling on the application being pushed back.

The long-running saga dates back to July 2016, when a blaze ripped through the upper floors of the 'new' extension in the school campus, rendering it unusable and forcing the temporary relocation of students to other sites around the town.

While prefabricated classrooms were subsequently installed on site allowing the students to move back on campus, the delay in sanctioning the refurbishment project at the school caused increasing frustration among the school population and the local community.

In April of last year the Student Council at the school vented their frustration at the delay in a letter to Minister McHugh, also highlighting the poor condition of the temporary classrooms.

"Not one single block has been laid, illustrating the lack-lustre response from your Department," read the letter.

"Do you really thinks that is good enough? If your son was a student in our school, do you think these sub-standard conditions were an acceptable environment to learn in? As a student body we feel the Government, and your department in particular, has neglected our school."

Last September it emerged there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel following the lodging of a planning application with Cork County Council for a major refurbishment plan at the school.

It made provision for the construction of a three-story 3,307 m2 extension, to the existing protected structure, incorporating 11 classrooms and other rooms, to replace the fire-damaged two-storey extension.

It also incorporated various other demolition works and the removal of the pre-fabricated classrooms.

However, last November Council planners wrote to the Department seeking additional information on the application relating to eight particular points.

One of these related to the proposed new building which planners said was "significantly different" to the proposals presented at pre-planning stage adding there were "serious concerns" about its design quality and concerns that its scale would impact negatively on neighbouring homes.

Other issues raised included access to the site, the potential for surface flooding and the "under provision" of car parking spaces.

At the time Deputy Sherlock pulled no punches in his assessment of the situation, launching a stinging broadside at the Government accusing them of deliberately stalling the refurbishment project.

"That there should have been need for a further information request at all must be explained by the department, given that issues of this kind of magnitude would normally be resolved at the pre-planning stage," said Deputy Sherlock.

He said it was his belief that Council planners had been deliberately misled in order to delay the project.

"I believe the outgoing government and the department is stalling this. It's clear to me that the a brake has been put on this project," he said.

Speaking to The Corkman this week Deputy Sherlock said he would continue to monitor the situation closely.

"I understand the Council is still considering its response to the issues raised and I am hoping that they will be sorted in a timely manner. This project is long overdue for completion," he said.

"However, I am also fearful that there could be a further delay in granting planning permission by August if these issues have not been sorted in the meantime. Any further stalling of this process would be completely unacceptable," he added.

Corkman