A planning application for a 12 classroom school at Knockeaneen National School needs to be done “quickly” in light of a €450m overspend on the National Children’s Hospital, Cllr Johnny Flynn has said.
“Without prejudice to the consideration by Clare County Council of a future planning application that Ennis Municipal District Executive and Roads Engineers continue to work with the school community of Knockaneen National School with regard to public road issues in order to progress the lodging of a planning application for the much needed 12 classroom school,” read a motion from Cllr Flynn at the February meeting of the Ennis MD.
Acting senior executive engineer, Barry Conway confirmed the roads section would continue to work with the school community “in relation to public road issues on the L-4106-0. The road design department are currently completing the design to address issues of alignment, road width”. He pointed out that the design was close to completion, when it is finished the Ennis MD “will apply for funding”.
It was a motion that evoked memories of Flynn’s youth as on Sunday mornings “my mother used to walk us up to Knockaneen and back”. He recalled that the school almost closed in the 1960s “due to low numbers” but stated it now has 293 pupils enrolled. The Fine Gael councillor said that funding for a 16 classroom school “had to be withdrawn because of objections”. “Everybody has decided to be pragmatic and not go for a bigger number even though it is required. The current plan is for 12 rooms”. He concluded, “At this stage with the way the National Children’s Hospital is funding will be pulled from all sorts of projects so we need to move this on quickly”.
“Knockaneen has become one of the biggest growing schools in the District. A lot of parents like the idea of bringing their children to small country schools but they grow over time and this is what happened with Knockaneen,” Cllr Ann Norton commented. Norton who seconded the motion, added “I drive the road a lot, it is an area that has been brought to every councillor’s attention, it is used as a rat run and something has to be done to slow down the traffic and make it safe. Health and safety has to be at the forefront”.
Cllr Mary Howard praised the prestige of the school across Clare. “The school is growing and it needs proper infrastructure. It has a wonderful reputation, students are at the fore whether its music, sport or academia. The Ennis schools are very busy and it suits a lot of children to go to smaller schools”.
A notice on Knockaneen NS’s website has alerted parents to long standing issues regarding traffic at the school. “We all know how manic parking can be outside the school in the mornings and afternoon. We encourage parents to car pool and share the drop-offs/collections as much as possible. The school gates are particularly busy between 9:20am-9:30am so please be patient and keep your eyes open for children at all sides. As you drive towards the school particularly at the narrow section of road just before the school, please allow cars driving away from the school to do so before you drive up to the school. Allowing cars to leave means more space for those yet to arrive. Above all, be patient with other drivers”.
In October 2016, Cllr Pat Daly tabled a motion appealing to the Ennis MD to “widen a very narrow road, the Ennis side of Knockaneen National School, particularly as there is now 300 pupils in the school and traffic can be chaos at peak intervals”. Senior executive engineer, Eamon O’Dea speaking at the time relayed that “the planning authority has serious concerns regarding the scale of the proposed development”, he felt it “would lead to significant traffic congestion in this area, would lead to unsustainable travel patterns over a wide area and would result in over development of the site and would have significant negative impact on the visual and residential amenities of the area”.