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Preschool for 150 Galway kids given 'stay of execution' by An Bord Pleanála


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Preschool for 150 Galway kids given 'stay of execution' by An Bord Pleanála Preschool for 150 Galway kids given 'stay of execution' by An Bord Pleanála

From the Galway City Tribune – Members of a community organisation in Doughiska are breathing a sigh of relief this week after the Planning Appeals Board gave a five-year ‘stay of execution’ to their preschool and afterschool – which serves around 150 children.

Last year, Galway City Council refused permission to DRA Community Development Company for the retention of five pre-fabricated classrooms on the Doughiska Road.

The pre-fabs had been used as a temporary Merlin Woods Primary School when the permanent building was being constructed.

DRA (Doughiska, Roscam, Ardaun) Early Years moved into the pre-fabs in March 2014, where it continues to operate – the community organisation had sought retention permission for the pre-fabs, but was refused permission on the grounds that the site is zoned for Recreation and Amenity usage and that it would contravene previous planning on the site which stipulated that the development was only for a temporary period, after which the structures must be removed.

In an appeal, the community group said the preschool has 100 children attending over five sessions daily during 43 weeks of the year, and the afterschool accommodates 50 pupils during the school year. The facility employs a staff of 14, complemented by three Community Employment Scheme participants.

“It is important to understand the context in which [the facility] was established. As a result of Galway City’s zoning policies, the area changed from being a rural area to being an important suburb on the edge of the city, with the population increasing to 7,500 people during the years 2000-05.

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“Several large housing estates were built in the area and, as is often the case, the services and infrastructure necessary to serve this growth was inadequate.

“The overall site (3.5 acres) on which the facility is built was purchased by the Community Development Company in March 2022 and it was only at this time that the opportunity arose to regularise the planning status of the facility.

“The future plan is to regularise the planning status of the temporary preschool buildings until such time a permanent home for the service can be found,” the appeal reads.

Rather than permanent retention, the appeal sought a five-year permission, noting the location near the new primary school building, Merlin College, the Cumasú centre and the large residential population.

An Bord Pleanála Planning Inspector Hugh Morrison wrote in his report: “During my site visit, I observed the afterschool facility in operation. Notwithstanding the fact that the classrooms are of prefabricated construction and they have been in situ for upwards of twelve years, these classrooms are in good condition.

“The functionality of the facility for this childcare use was self-evident and it presented as being one that was clearly meeting a local need. I recognise that it is an unauthorised use at present. I recognise, too, that were the use to cease on the site, the applicant may have difficulty, in the short-term, finding alternative premises to continue,” said Mr Morrison, recommending that the pre-fabs be allowed to stay in place for three years.

The Board upheld his recommendation but said a retention for five years was “warranted and reasonable in this instance”.

The classrooms can only be used as a preschool and afterschool facility and must be removed and the site cleared on or before June 9, 2028.

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