*St Flannan’s College.
AN BORD Pleanála has rejected a request by teachers and staff and the Board of Management at St Flannan’s College in Ennis for an oral hearing to be held into contentious plans for a €25m HSE community hospital to be built on Church-owned green space at the college.
In a letter to parties engaged in the planning dispute, An Bord Pleanála has stated that it has concluded that the case can be dealt with adequately through written procedures and the case can be decided without an oral hearing.
The request by teachers and the Board of Management for an oral hearing is contained in their separate appeals against last April’s Clare County Council decision giving the go-ahead to a HSE 100 bed hospital on the seven acre green field college site.
In their appeal, the teachers state that the green field site at St Flannan’s College is the last remaining site of its kind in Ennis.
They state that “urban sprawl is taking up much more of our green space each year. Once this land will be built upon, it will be gone forever”.
The oral hearing would have provided the teachers’ representatives and other appellants an opportunity to question the HSE over their plans at a public forum.
The HSE planning application was only made possible after it received the consent from landowners, the Diocese of Killaloe to lodge the planning application.
The diocese led by Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan has agreed to sell the lands to the HSE subject to planning permission.
The College’s Board of Management has also appealed the decision telling the appeals board that there is intensive use of all of the College pitches throughout the school year and the loss of a pitch is not something that can be readily absorbed without curtailing student sporting activity.
In February, Fr Albert McDonnell on behalf of the diocese’s property arm, the St Flannan’s (Killaloe) Diocesan Trust provided a letter lodged with the Council which stated that the Trust do not intend to use the planned hospital site for the future development of the school.
Placing the diocese at odds with the St Flannan’s staff and board of Management, Fr McDonnell stated that “this area is on the periphery of the campus and in the event that the school requires expansion in the future, the Trust believes that there is ample space in the remaining lands for this to occur”.
A total of six third party appeals have been lodged against the Clare Co Council grant of permission. Others to lodge appeals are ‘Jim and Mary Wylde and others’ and individual appeals from Sean Walzer, Maura Walzer and Patrick Walzer.
In its own submission to An Bord Pleanála, the Council placed emphasis on the letter from Fr McDonnell in its decision to grant planning permission.
Concerning the HSE’s legal interest in advancing the plans, the Council stated that it noted the letter from the St Flannan’s Killaloe Diocesan Trust “which confirms that there are no plans to expand St Flannan’s College into the subject site”.
The Council told the appeals board that it considers it appropriate that a development such as the one proposed by the HSE “is located and forms an integral part of a community, rather than being located at the outskirts of a community/neighbourhood”.
On behalf of the college Board of Management, a diocesan colleague of Bishop Monahan, School Principal Fr Ignatius McCormack told the Council that “other suitable sites, which do not cut across existing intensive use by a large proportion of the youth of the area must be available”.
After plans were lodged for the hospital, Bishop Monahan said “this wonderful proposed development” by the HSE “will be of great benefit to our community”.
Bishop Monahan said that “the Diocese is very pleased to be able to facilitate the HSE in providing a state of the art facility for the benefit of the communities of Ennis and County Clare in general in a location which is ideal for such a facility”.
Bishop Monahan said that the Diocesan Trust could confirm “that the Diocese is entirely free to sell this land for community benefit and has received the necessary Charities Regulator authorisation”.
In recommending a grant of permission for the project, the Council planner’s report stated that while there would appear to be some level of dispute between the landowners and the BOM of St Flannan’s College concerning the future intentions over the school’s potential expansion, “this is not an issue that the planning authority can resolve”.
The planners’ report also noted objectors’ claims regarding the diocese’s ability to develop the site arising from conditions attached to the 1955 bequest of the lands to the diocese controlled St Flannan’s (Killaloe) diocesan Trust.
The report states that “again, this is not an issue for the planning authority to resolve”.
The council granted planning permission after concluding that the proposal would not seriously injure the residential amenities of the area and would not pose a risk to pedestrian and traffic safety.