Friday 23 August 2019

Council to put department on alert over site for third school

Cathy Lee

Wexford County Council is informing the Department of Education and Skills through a formal letter that a potential site at St Waleran's, Ballytegan, Gorey exists for the construction of a new second level school for the area.

'We have this new site, this new land and we will rezone land if necessary. We're saying that we have another option on the table now, as we have been highlighting the issue for numbers of years. The only delay to this process is the Minister and his Department and their failure to sanction a new school,' said Gorey Councillor Malcolm Byrne who sees St Waleran's as the perfect site to meet the growing demand for school places.

'As a Council we can't build the school, we can only identify and zone lands. Really we need to start to apply the pressure to the Minister. The local second level and primary schools have been regularly highlighting the looming crisis. The Department and the government have been aware for a long time of the schools challenge here locally, and still are refusing to sanction a new school. St Waleran's could be an ideal location but if it is to be elsewhere, so be it'.

'With 75 acres, as a Council we are going to commission an overall investigation into the site for its development, to get a plan drawn out that will include public consultation and engagement. It will really be transforming for the area, but it has to be planned in a proper and sustainable way,' he said.

Elaine Clarke, who is heading up the campaign for a third secondary school, said that the group welcomes the fact that the Council are making land available, but feels that land is not the issue.

'The county council and the councillors are well aware of the criteria that needs to be met to get a new secondary school built and it is their role to provide up to date information on the demographic changes in an area, as it is this data that proves the need for a new school. Telling the Department that there is land available will not get an announcement of a new school, as land is not the issue,' she said.

Elaine's group plans to send data to the Department that it has gathered since January 2017 around new homes built in the district, population growth, as well as school places to demonstrate the message of the campaign in a need for a new school.

She hopes that Cllr Malcolm Byrne and Wexford County Council take the same approach.

'Elaine needs to talk to her Fine Gael minister, and say to him to sanction this school,' said Cllr Malcolm Byrne.

Going forward, Elaine's group intend to increase support for the campaign by calling door to door to get signatures demanding the announcement of the new school, and the group are now asking people in Gorey to help with this.

'As time is running out, we want to avoid a crisis in three years time, we are looking for people to help with calling door to door. If any readers can help, please contact me by email or through the Facebook campaign page,' said Elaine.

The Department of Education said in a statement that work has commenced in relation to obtaining updates from Wexford County Council.

'The Department engages with local authorities including Wexford County Council to obtain up to date data on significant new residential developments in each area. This is necessary to ensure that schools' infrastructure planning is keeping pace as there is a constantly evolving picture with planned new residential development. This information will form part of the demographic exercises to project the requirements for school places over the coming years,' the statement read.

The Department is also included among bodies which local authorities are statutorily obliged to send draft development and local area plans for comment and observations.

Where data indicates that additional provision is required, the delivery of such provision is dependent on the circumstances of each case and may, depending, be provided through either one, or a combination of utilising existing unused capacity or extending the capacity within a school, or provision of a new school or schools.

Gorey Guardian