School fears that public parkland may be redesignated

Parents and teachers at a city school are concerned that public parkland adjacent to the facility, which they had envisaged could be used by pupils both during and after school, may be redesignated which may result in limited access for them to an important local amenity.

Noreen Healy, the principal of St John the Apostle National School in Knocknacarra, says Galway City Council has appointed consultants to draw up a framework plan regarding the use of the public parklands at the Kingston lands off the Western Distributor Road.

As a major stakeholder in the community, the board of management and the parents’ association were invited by the Council to make a presentation to the consultants yesterday (Wednesday ). The school community came out in significant numbers to meet the consultants Cunnane, Stratton Reynolds at their informal public consultation event at Knocknacarra Community Centre.

They made a key submission requesting that the parklands be (1 ) kept for public use by the city council and be developed to accommodate a wide range of community interests (2 ) be available to the school children both during and after school (3 ) be available to the community for recreational purposes.

The 444 pupil school, which caters for children aged four to 13 years, was built in August 2009 but had little or no “green play area”, according to Ms Healy.

“However, in locating the school on this site the Department and the school’s board of management had a confident expectation that the school would have access to the adjacent public parkland. The plans for the school included gated access to these lands.

“The school offers a broad range of extra-curricular activities, with staff volunteering their time and skills to coach football, hurling, athletics, soccer, Olympic handball, basketball and hockey after school. In order to take part in these activities the children are dependent on their parents collecting them from school and transporting them to training at various locations around Knocknacarra, including Cappagh Park which is located almost two miles from the school. The school community now welcomes the opportunity for development of the adjacent parkland. This will be in line with the adopted City Council policy of 2008.”

However the school community is concerned about redesignation of the parkland, she says. “We are concerned that the public parkland that was always part of the school’s future plans will be redesignated and assigned to a single interest group, which despite many assurances will inevitably restrict and limit the school children in their access to this public green space adjoining their school.

“We want to hold on to this public community amenity for the children’s sake. Our children could use it daily at playtime, for PE classes and for outdoor classroom work. Research indicates that if we can get children actively involved at a young age they will be more likely to play sport as adults. It was always envisaged by the school that we would have access to it and we do not want to lose this.”

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