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No problems with planning -- hospital chiefs

ANY planning problems with the new National Children's Hospital are "entirely manageable", the board has claimed.

The board of the facility, to be sited at St James's Hospital, has moved to ease fears about potential planning problems at the site.

Concerns had been raised that the proposed new hospital -- now due to be delivered by the later date of 2018 -- may hit a planning hurdle for the second time.

The 6.3-hectare (15.5 acres) site has to be rezoned with the 108,000sqm building expected to be up to nine storeys high -- around 10 metres above the maximum 28 metres allowed in the area. Local residents are expected to object. The cost of the original build on the Mater site was €650m but the project's backers believe it can be built for €484m.

Around €39m had already been spent on the Mater site, with around €13m in design work capable of being carried over to the new site.

The facility would be built on the south inner-city campus after the original plans to erect it alongside the Mater Hospital were scuppered when An Bord Pleanala rejected planning permission.

A spokesman for the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board last night insisted the particular local planning issues in relation to the St James's site can be managed.

"We are fully satisfied as has been already referred to by a number of expert sources that the planning issues are entirely manageable and take full account of the particular local environment in framing a plan for the new hospital," the spokesman said.

The minister already pointed out he had sought a larger footprint on the St James's site to reduce the height of the building to try to meet the restrictions on new builds.

A separate report from the Office of Public Works outlines other risks, including the need to upgrade the electricity and sewerage system. Junior Health Minister Alex White yesterday said all of the planning implications and difficulties had been examined as the new site was being selected over the past month.

He pointed out in addition to the Dolphin review group which assessed the various sites, planning experts John Martin and Simon Clear, a former inspector with An Bord Pleanala, also submitted a further report to the Health Minister on the planning issues associated with the particular sites.

Louis Roden, chair of the parents' group, The New Crumlin Hospital Group, said "planning issues" would naturally arise with any site.

"What we need now is that the Government find a way to get the planners to contribute to the decision, I know this is not allowed at the moment," he said.

"All medical advice says it has to be located with a main adult hospital. If you look realistically there were just a handful of options."