TEACHERS and staff at St Flannan’s College have voiced opposition to plans for the development of a €25 million 100-bed community nursing unit on land used as playing grounds by the Ennis secondary school.
According to a statement issued by the staff of St Flannan’s the proposal “will have a seriously negative impact” on the student population.
“The green field site in St Flannan’s College is the last remaining site of its kind in Ennis. Urban sprawl is taking up much more of our green spaces each year. Once this land is built upon it will be gone forever,” it states.
The teachers and staff have detailed reasons for their opposition to the plans including that during the academic year many teams of various sports regularly train on the pitches.
“With so many students on the fields at any one time all our field space is utilised, including much of the space that is suggested for development under the proposed new facility.
“Such is the demand for space, a rota is updated regularly for the use of various pitches by the many teams which represent the college.”
The statement went on, “The fields at St Flannan’s College act as a running track for athletes in the school and in the community all year round.
“Several people in the wider community use the grounds as a running track in the evenings. Also, St Flannan’s College itself has a rich tradition of athletics and has fostered a love of running in many past and present pupils, many of whom have represented the school in meets all round the country.
“Indeed, many of our athletes have and continue to represent their country in their chosen discipline.”
The environmental impact of the plans “would be significant”, according to the statement.
“Incredible generational/statement trees that are on the grounds of St Flannan’s College will be removed altogether. The response from the HSE in relation to this was ‘new trees and planting will be added throughout the development to compensate for existing trees’.
“We feel no new planting can compensate for the loss of these landmarks in the area. These, along with the areas surrounding the trees, are incredibly rich in biodiversity.
“There will also be a huge influx of extra traffic into an area which is already suffering from traffic congestion.”
The statement points out the student population of St Flannan’s College is growing. In the academic year 2021/2022 we enrolled 240 new 1st Year students.
“This was repeated in the academic year 2022/2023. These were the two largest ever enrolments in the history of the college.
“We understand the need for a new community hospital in Ennis. However, we believe that there are several more appropriate sites available for development. We feel it is incumbent on us to make the above points as teachers and staff in St Flannan’s College,” the statement concluded.
The HSE lodged an application for the new hospital to replace long stay and short stay beds at St Joseph’s last August.
The plans for the development at lands at Clonroadmore, South-East of Turnpike Road and North-West of St Flannan’s College in Ennis include the construction of a part two-storey, part single-storey 100 bed residential community nursing unit (CNU).
According to a report compiled on behalf of the HSE by architects MRL and Van Dijk the HSE Community Services in County Clare have identified the need for a new 100-bed residential care centre (RCC)/CNU “as a service priority”.
The report sets out, “The new development meets many needs and has a number of benefits”.
Outlining these benefits, the architects state the provision of the new 100 bed ward replacement to HIQA and SARI guidelines and recommendations “will ensure that Clare and in particular the current residents of St Joseph’s can continue in a locally based continuing care residential healthcare unit for years to come without fear of losing registration for their health care setting”.
“The patients will be able to continue being cared for by the staff they have grown to know, in an enhanced environment,” it stated.
Further, the construction of a new standalone facility on a green field site will “avoid the disruption, phasing and decanting arrangements that would be required should the existing unit be upgraded and extended”.
“It is impractical and inefficient to refurbish the existing Community Nursing Home as the unit has no room for expansion, and would lose significant capacity at a time when there has never been more need for long stay beds.”
Plans for an accommodation unit for relatives will assist in the implementation of national standards, giving relatives privacy and support.
“The new building will provide a safe, holistic and pleasant environment for staff and patients alike. Morale among staff would be greatly improved,” it added.
A decision on the plans was put on hold last October when Clare County Council expressed “serious concerns” about the development and sought further information from the HSE.
Among the concerns raised by the local authority were that the development may prejudice the future expansion of the secondary school.
The potential overbearing impact of the proposal on existing dwellings in the vicinity was highlighted as well as concerns over the scale and massing of the proposed development.