Belfast Telegraph

Hospital at risk without a planner

Experts have warned the future build of the National Children's Hospital could be at risk if the Government fails to include a planner on its special review group.

Health Minister James Reilly will next week appoint the group, which will consider alternative options for the development, after An Bord Pleanala rejected plans last month.

The Irish Planning Institute has argued that architectural and clinical experts alone may not have sufficient knowledge to help deliver a strategy for the 650 million euro development. And president Brendan Allen said it would be extraordinary if planners were left out of the review process.

"Forward planning is the key to the successful delivery of infrastructure projects as it means that the hard decisions in relation to the principle are taken early on before millions are spent on detailed design," said Mr Allen.

"In an era where public money is limited, forward planning is the less costly area of planning and needs to be the focus of planning for future strategic infrastructure development."

An Bord Pleanala rejected the Government's controversial plans for the 15-storey building on the Mater Hospital site in north Dublin, saying the 74m-high building over 100,000 square feet was too large and out of place in the city skyline.

Dr Reilly announced he would appoint a review group to consider both amending the plans for the Mater site and looking into alternative locations for the proposed 400-bed development.

Both he and Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged their 100% commitment to the project, promising the parents of sick children that the build will go ahead despite the setback.

But Mr Allen warned that planners must be involved with the expert review group to ensure the project adheres to national, regional and local planning structures, and that no one is surprised by the size or location ultimately decided upon.

"It is essential that an experienced spatial planner should be part of this body so that any future decision in relation to the location of the hospital, wherever this might be, is based on sound planning principles as well as medical needs," he added.

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