Wexford Loreto project under way after 18-year wait
IT has been a long time coming, but after months and years of anticipation, the sod has at last been turned signifying the start of work on the first new secondary school to be built in Wexford since the Christian Brothers in the 1870s.
In suitably sodden conditions, the turf was cut by Minister Brendan Howlin after the spade passed hand-to-hand to him by 18 students, the youngest student at the school, 12-year-old Adel Kinsella, the last in the chain of 18, symbolically marking the 18 years it has taken the school project to become a reality.
'Today has been a great day for us.. it's the culmination of 18 years of work with many setbacks along the way, but at last the good news has won out,' Loreto Principal Billy O'Shea told this newspaper.
Because of the bad weather, some of the ceremonies were transferred to the Talbot Hotel where Sr Helen O'Riordan thanked Minister Howlin and former mayor Cllr George Lawlor for their contribution in securing the new school.
Darren Quinn, on behalf of Fortissimo Developments, which donated the land, paid tribute to the drive and commitment of Mr O'Shea in driving the project forward. Among those attending was Mayor Cllr Ger Carthy, Bishop Denis Brennan, members of the board of the Loreto Trust, students and staff. The first phase of the work which will take five months to complete, includes basic infrastructure such as site fencing, roads and drains, and will be carried out by Roadbridge, from Limerick. The work had been due to star a month ago, but it was stalled when another contractor pulled out of the siteworks at the 11th hour.
'I am delighted to see that advance works, which will include a new access road, will begin immediately,' said Minister Howlin.
'This long-awaited project will create jobs in the construction industry in Wexford.. and will provide new and improved educational facilities for Wexford's students, enabling us to meet growing demographic pressure and provide the best facilities for our students,' he said.
The Inspired Spaces Consortium has been selected as the preferred tenderer for the provision of five new schools nationally - including the Loreto - that have been included in Bundle 5 of the Department's Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme.
Construction of all the schools will start next summer, and they will be available for occupation by the second half of 2017.
The Loreto development on a greenfield site, once earmarked for housing and a nursing home, will see the creation of a two- and three-storey school building with state-of-the-art educational and sports facilities.
No decision has yet been made on what to do with the Loreto's existing premises which at some stage will be returned to the trustees.
The new 900-student school, which will be built off the Duncannon Road at Ballynagee on a 10.3 acre site, is bounded to the east by the Whiterock residential estates, to the south and west by agricultural land and to the north by the R733 Duncannon Road.
The school will have a full-size GAA pitch, hockey pitch, three ball courts, car and cycle parking and a drop off area.
The new school building itself, which will be sub-divided into two district blocks, will range from two to three storeys, with the physical education hall providing direct access to the GAA and hockey pitches.
Under the PPP model, the schools will be designed, built, financed and maintained for 25 years by the Consortium.