School to look back on proud history on leaving Spawell site
LORETO PRINCIPAL Billy O'Shea was full of praise for Minister Brendan Howlin and the Mayor Cllr George Lawlor in helping bring the new school project to fruition.
Mr O'Shea said he turned to Brendan Howlin back in 2007 when a previous planning application was turned down because the then-plans would have impacted on the existing buildings, parts of which date to 1792.
'I turned to Minister Howlin and he facilitated a meeting to move the thing forward,' said Mr O'Shea. 'We are hugely appreciative of the support for the project and work done by Minister Howlin and Cllr George Lawlor. 'We have made huge progress since they got involved.'
Mr O'Shea said the school is currently operating out of buildings that date back to 1792 and the 1830s, which it was very conscious of maintaining in good order both internally and externally until such time as any new owner was found.
The board of management curently operates on a licence from the Loreto trustees, with the premises reverting to them once the new school is open.
Mr O'Shea said it would be up to the trustees to then decide on what happens to the existing buildings, on a prime site on Spawell Road.
The school itself was established in 1866 by the sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known in Ireland as the Loreto Sisters.
The school website says the Loreto is tremendously proud of its history, tradition and past achievements.
It recognises the immense contribution of all those Loreto sisters, lay people and students who have worked in the school since its foundation and who have brought it to the forefront of educational achievement in the town, county, country and further afield.
But it also makes a nod to the future, saying it is mindful of current educational reform and change.
There was little development of the school for many years, and while the infrastructure of a building dating back more than 200 years has been progessively modernised, there is a limit to what can be achieved.
At the end of the 1800s, a concert hall block was added. The newest part of the school, the reception area, was opened in 1970. And then in the 1980s and '90s, some of the former boarding bedroom dormitories were converted into classrooms. The last boarders were at the school at the end of the 1980s.
Mr O'Shea said it wasn't until 1998 that an application for a further extension (in addition to the work dating back to 1970) was submitted.
'We had to wait until 2007 before we were able to advance our plans and put in a planning application.
That planning was refused in May, 2007 on foot of an onjection from the Department of Heritage and Local Government because of the perceived effect the work might have on the exisiting premises.
'That shot down the proposal,' said Mr O'Shea.
'It took us from 2007 until recent weeks to get a new planning application together,' he said. 'What was very significant was for us to be included in the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) stimulus package. Once that happened, the thing accelerated hugely and we are now at the stage where we have detailed drawings and designs.'
The 10.3 acre site for the new school was donated by the Ballynagee Partnership and is part of a 90-acre site that will see residential development.