Sandymount School to take legal action against apartment building

A small Sandymount primary school in Dublin 4 will find itself in court in the new year in its effort to stop the development of more than 100 apartments on its school grounds.

St Matthew’s National School is initiating judicial review proceedings against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to allow 112 apartments in blocks up to six stories high that will face the schoolyard and classrooms.

In September, the board of directors granted a building permit to Maxol Property Ltd for the building complex for rent under the Strategic Housing Development (SHD) system, which is expected to be discontinued in early 2022.

While judicial review proceedings against SHD decisions are frequently initiated by groups of residents, it is extremely rare for a school to initiate legal action in relation to a housing estate.

However, in this case, the school board felt compelled to act, explained principal Naomi Rousseau.

“I don’t think any of us want to be in this position, we would rather do our own work, but we think we need to use our little voice to protect our students. We feel that we have no options.

The apartments would be within half a yard of the school’s perimeter wall, with balconies located directly above the playground and some classrooms, she said.

“We are not against the development, we would be in favor of the residential development on this site, but not the density and scale of what is proposed where every square inch is expelled from the site and the windows of the apartments will have a view open and unobstructed on the courtyard and the classrooms.

Jonathan Bell, who has two children at the school, one of whom has special needs, said there were “back-up” issues surrounding the development.

“It raises issues of child protection and safety with so many windows facing the school. There is also the problem of construction disruptions which could last for two years and would be particularly difficult for children with special needs.

Special needs

Hannah Goulden, the school’s special educational needs coordinator, said of the 230 students, around 35 had special needs and could be particularly affected by development.

“We would have a number of children with sensory difficulties who would have difficulty with noise, and if they have to wear noise blockers it will impact their learning and academic progress. Our sensory room is closest to the perimeter wall, and because the school is small, we don’t really have another place to locate it.

Principal Naomi Rousseau has a computer-generated image of the proposed apartment block overlooking the school’s playground. Photography: Laura Hutton

Tara Clarke, who has been sending her children to school for 23 years, said there were a significant number of children in school with breathing difficulties. “I don’t see how it will be possible to keep children with health problems safe during all of this. I am from the local community and have grown children who would be looking to move up the ownership ladder but this is not the right place for this development.

Ten years ago, the site was intended for a drive-thru McDonald’s restaurant, but Maxol was refused permission to develop it by both Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanála.

Susan Connolly, who had five children at the school, said parents and the school had long accepted that the site would be developed. “Everyone understands that something will be built here, but it’s the scale, the huge structure that concerns us. “

Fund raising

The school will raise money to pay for the lawsuit and plans to set up a GoFundMe page for online donations. Ms. Rousseau said that although the school had an address in Sandymount, the students came from a mix of income.

“The school was originally in Irishtown and we would have children from Irishtown, Ringsend and Sandymount. Yes, there are some privileged children here, but not the majority, it is very mixed. There are much better ways to spend school resources, but we believe we have no choice.

Maxol Ltd did not respond to requests for comment. An Bord Pleanála does not comment on current affairs.

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