*An aerial view of St Flannan’s College.
CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL has given the green light to contentious HSE plans for a new €25m community hospital on green space at St Flannan’s College in Ennis.
The 100 bed Community Nursing Unit (CNU) is to be built on a seven acre green field site at Clonroadmore at St Flannan’s College and replace the existing bed capacity at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis.
The Council has granted planning permission despite the opposition to the plan by St Flannan’s College teaching staff that include celebrated Clare All-Ireland winning hurlers, Tony Kelly, Jamesie O’Connor and Brendan Bugler.
The proposal has also put the college’s Board of Management (BOM) at loggerheads with the Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan. The HSE lodged the planning application after the Diocese of Killaloe agreed to sell the church owned lands to the HSE for the hospital.
The College BOM along with 75 staff and retired staff all lodged group submissions with the Council outlining their opposition to the plan.
In the Council’s planner’s report, it noted the third party submissions made by the BOM and staff members at St Flannan’s College.
The planner’s report states that, “from a planning perspective, the proposed development complies with the zoning objective and the applicants have submitted a sufficient rationale for the site selection”.
The report states 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 states that the HSE has provided sufficient evidence of their legal interest to lodge the planning application.
The report states that “any further consents that may have to be obtained are essentially a subsequent matter and outside the scope of this planning application”.
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.
Four-time All-Star, Tony Kelly, double All-Ireland winner with Clare from the 1990s and well known hurling pundit, Jamesie O’Connor and key member of the 2013 Clare All-Ireland winning team, Brendan Bugler appended their names to a group staff objection to the planned hospital for the Church-owned green field site on the college grounds.
In their objection, the staff told the Council that the hospital proposal “will have a seriously negative impact on the student population of St Flannan’s College”.
The staff stated that St Flannan’s College for the past two academic years has had its two largest ever enrolments with 240 1st Years each year.
They stated, “St Flannan’s College is the only school in the town with the potential to expand if needed. We believe that it would be incredibly short sighted were the lands to be taken away from any future development”.
They further stated that “the green field site at St Flannan’s College is the last remaining of its kind in Ennis. Urban sprawl is taking up much more of our green spaces each year. Once built, this land will be gone forever.”
They stated that they understand the need for a new community hospital in Ennis “however, we believe that there are several more appropriate sites available for development”.
The staff at St Flannan’s College stated that the playing fields at the college are used daily for sports for a variety of sports. They stated that “we believe that no other sporting facility in Ennis would be built upon as it is proposed for our developed playing pitches”.
Speaking on the issue last year, 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 “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”.
Third parties can now appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála.