*St Flannan’s College. 

CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL has expressed “serious concerns” that a HSE €25m plan for an elderly care unit on Church owned lands at St Flannan’s College in Ennis may prejudice the future expansion of the secondary school.

In putting the project on hold, the Council has written to the HSE to state that it has serious concerns that the proposed development particularly on lands zoned community may prejudice the future expansion of the school, including ancillary required sports/recreational grounds and result in the removal of a number of mature trees”.

The proposed 100 bed Community Nursing Unit (CNU) on a seven acre green field site at Clonroadmore at the post primary St Flannan’s College is to replace the existing bed capacity at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis.

In the letter, the Council states that St Joseph’s Hospital benefits from a central location, availability of public infrastructure and proximity to social infrastructure.

The Council state that having regard to the benefits listed, it has asked the HSE to submit a detailed site selection rationale in relation to the site at St Flannan’s and clearly outline confirmation by school authorities or management that the lands are not required for any potential/future school expansion on the community zoned lands.

In the seven page letter, the Council has also asked the HSE to provide detail on alternative sites that were considered in relation to the proposed new CNU and details for discounting those alternatives.

The Council expressing “serious concerns” over the impact the proposal may have on the future expansion of St Flannan’s Colleges follows an ex principal of St Flannan’s College objecting to the proposed development.

In a detailed objection against the application, Colm McDonagh has questioned if the local Church has the authority to sell the lands to the HSE for the CNU. Mr McDonagh stated that the proposed CNU “is inappropriate at this location and is not in the best interests of proper planning and development of the area”.

A native of Ennis, Mr McDonagh was on the teaching staff at St Flannan’s College for 33 years and became the first lay principal of St Flannan’s College in 2000 remaining in the post until his retirement from the role in 2012.

On the issue of the ability of the Killaloe Diocese to sell the lands, Mr McDonagh said that less than 20 years ago, the Trustees of St Flannan’s College were successful in halting the Diocesan sale of the same site to facilitate a new school for Ennis National School.

Mr McDonagh reveals that the Trustees “were very concerned that the sale of these sales was not in accordance with the wishes of the person who bequeathed these lands.”

He says, “The terms of the will have obviously not changed. The legal advice sought and given must equally apply at the current time.”

Objecting in a personal capacity, Mr McDonagh said that the precedent of the aborted sale concerning Ennis national school raises very serious issues concerning the authority of the Killaloe Diocesan Trust to dispose of the lands.

Last week, the Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan 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”.

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”.

A total of 11 objections have been lodged against the scheme including one by 86 year old Martha Walzer of Green Park, Clare Rd, Ennis who has told the Council that she “will be a prisoner in my own home” during the construction phase of the scheme.

As part of a 16 page objection, Ms Walzer states that “this is a residential area and this site is the only sport/leisure/biodiversity/recreation space on the east side of Ennis”.

She stated: “This entire green field should remain so. We must think of the future generations now. There are very viable alternatives for this development. It is for these reasons I object to the granting of permission and ask that you refuse permission.”

In its request for further information, the Council has stated that it has concerns in relation to the potential overbearing impact of the proposal on existing dwellings in the vicinity.

As a result, the Council has asked the HSE to relocate or redesign the proposed building so that greater separation distances are maintained.

The local authority has also expressed concern over the scale and massing of the proposed development.

The application will become ‘live’ once more after the requested further information has been lodged by the HSE.

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