herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Two planning deadlines for children’s hospital missed – despite Varadkar warning

Leo Varadkar said lessons needed to be learned
Leo Varadkar said lessons needed to be learned
National Children's Hospital design
NCH

THE agency behind the National Children’s Hospital project missed two deadlines set for submitting the planning application for the St James’s Hospital site, the Herald can reveal.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) had aimed to file the planning papers in June.

Once it became apparent that wouldn’t happen, Health Minister Leo Varadkar warned the application should not “slip beyond July”.

The July deadline passed as well and, ultimately, it was not received by An Bord Pleanala until August 10.

At one point construction work on the hospital was set to begin next January, but now it may not start until mid-2016, according to tender documents issued by the NPHDB seeking contractors.

The project has been beset by delays, the most serious of which saw a bid to build at the Mater rejected by An Bord Pleanala in 2012.

A now-abandoned timetable for the planning phase of the hospital was outlined by project director John Pollock at a meeting with the hospital’s Community Benefit Programme Oversight Group on April 8.

According to the record of his presentation, planning was to be lodged by June 2015, a decision on the application was “expected around December”, construction was due to start next January and “completion will be in 2019”.

However, the minutes of a April 22 meeting of the hospital’s steering group show that the minister was “informed that the planning permission may move from June to July”.

“It was emphasised that the minister has been clear that under no circumstances should the planning application slip beyond July.”

On the day, Mr Varadkar said that he was “confident but not complacent” that the board would secure the go-ahead from the planning authority to build the hospital that was first announced a decade ago.

Work

Recently-published Ttender documents state that “it is envisaged that work will start on site in early to mid 2016 with completions scheduled for the end of 2019”.

A spokeswoman for the NPHDB said: “In a project as complex and significant as this, slight delays in the submission for planning occur in order to ensure the extensive inputs from varied stakeholder groups are appropriately integrated”

She also said that the start date would depend on the outcome of the planning process.

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