Churches and educational authorities are at odds over the reallocation of school land
Education officials have asked Dublin City Council to protect the land around schools in the capital, clashed with religious orders asking for the sites to be considered for housing development.
Religious orders, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, the Carmelite Province of Ireland and the Church of Ireland, believe the lands they control are able to support the housing supply without adversely affecting future school expansion.
The Ministry of Education disagrees. It wants the council to develop a zoning category “that will protect the existing plots of all existing school sites in Dublin”.
In a submission to Dublin City Council‘s (DCC) draft Development Plan 2022-2028, which sets legal parameters for construction in the capital, the Department said it believed future population growth meant projections for Dublin’s growth that some schools will need space for expansion.
Citing prohibitive land costs and limited availability, it calls on the council to ensure school sites are not subject to “reduction” and “erosion”.
The 17-page letter sent to council officials earlier this month said: “A strategic long-term view is required to ensure capacity for the required school places in a more densely populated city”.
Recent studies showed that Dublin’s population is expected to increase by around 100,000 people between 2019 and 2031.
Dublin has 300 primary, secondary and special schools and “the full protection of each and every one of these school buildings (including buildings, playgrounds, playing fields and green spaces) is critical to best meet future educational needs” of areas across the city, the department said added.
The bill says it is more viable and less expensive to protect land than to look for future alternatives.
“Any reduction/erosion of any kind in the area of a school area could hinder the optimal development of this area/school in order to optimally meet the future requirements of the quarter, which result from the general policy of more intensive development of the city,” said the Letter.
“Where there are land buffers around existing schools, the Department is also requiring these to be protected. Urban land is very scarce and where it is available it is generally exorbitantly expensive and commands house prices.”
Separate submissions to the council by religious groups indicate a desire to maximize land values prior to future sale or development by zoning it for housing development. The Diocese of Dublin has asked the council to consider an “alternative zoning” for the land it owns about 170 schools across the city.
“These sites have no long-term capacity issues and see no need for expansion,” a 130-page filing reads.
Another submission from the Carmelite order, which runs Terenure College, said its location “goes far beyond” what the school needs.
Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland is seeking to rededicate part of its land that was previously part of its Rathmines Teaching College before being moved to DCU in 2016.
The Church of Ireland Mission said it had conducted an audit of their property and “found that there is a surplus of land that they do not need for church or educational use”.
“In this context, there is an opportunity to provide sustainable housing development in a central urban location that can help address the city’s housing crisis.”
The church wants the northern portion of its five-acre site on Rathmines Road Upper to be zoned for institutional, educational, community, green infrastructure and health purposes. The southern part of the property could be zoned to “improve the quality of life”, it said.
“The lands are in private use and therefore do not offer ‘open space’ to the wider community. In this context, it must be questioned whether the currently inaccessible property and the regularly tended lawn have value as public open space and can be better used due to their central location.”