Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) has been urged to scrap plans to build a new secondary school on the outskirts of Croom and choose a new location instead.
Local councillor Richard O’Donoghue has claimed that €2.5m has been “wasted” on plans to build a new campus for Colaiste Chiarain at Skagh, outside Croom which was rejected by An Bord Pleanala earlier this year.
Instead of going ahead with a new application at the same location, he wants a new site to be selected close to the present school campus.
“There is adequate land in Croom to build this school. There is land behind the school and there is land at the side of the school for sale at the moment,” he said.
However, his views are at odds with another local councillor, Fine Gael’s Stephen Keary, who believes the Skagh site is the most suitable and that the new school should go ahead there. He added that it was his understanding that LCETB planned to lodge a fresh planning application for the site in the near future.
Cllr Keary said he was concerned that money that had been ringfenced by the Department of Education for the new school would be lost if a new location was chosen.
He pointed out that 20 acres had been acquired for the new school and that to attempt to build the school in a different location would result in considerable delays to the project.
“If it goes back to the drawing board, it would mean going back to the whole process of land acquisition and planning again and that would take years and years,” Cllr Keary said.
“That site [at Skagh] was fully vetted and deemed suitable by the consultants for the VEC and the application was approved by the planners in Limerick City and county Council,” he pointed out.
The Fine Gael councillor added that it was not necessary for the school to be located in the town as the majority of the students in the school were bussed in from a 10-15 mile radius of Croom.
Cllr Keary acknowledged that the proposed site did not have the appropriate zoning for a school, but pointed out that a ‘material contravention’ of the county development plan could be approved by local councillors to change this.
But, speaking at this week’s Adare Rathkeale municipal area meeting, senior planner Maria Woods said that there was sufficient land zoned within the town to accommodate the new school.
Fianna Fail’s Cllr O’Donoghue said there was an “urgent” need for a new school, pointing out that it was operating out of 64 portacabins. He claimed that €2m had been spent acquiring the land at Skagh and another €500,000 spent preparing planning applications.
“Money has been wasted. Lands have been bought, unzoned lands,” he said. He added that the site in Skagh was also in a flood zone.
Cllr O’Donoghue, who is a member of LCETB, said he would be seeking an emergency meeting of the board to prevent it going ahead with another application on the Skagh site.