‘Our heritage is not for sale’

By Maurice Garvey

A CENTRAL building block at the former De La Salle National School could be classified as a Protected Structure, if a recommendation put forward by Dublin City Council is adopted.

Last year, the school and surrounding GAA playing pitches were sold by the De La Salle brothers to Dwyer Nolan Developments Ltd – who are believed to be interested in building residential units at the site.

De La Salle Primary school Ballyfermot 1 compressor

The De La Salle school in Ballyfermot

De La Salle NS was the first school to open in Ballyfermot in 1952 with over 1000 students.

However, the last 60 or so sixth class students finished up in June, and the school is now closed.

Built by Simon Aloysius Leonard as one of the first civic structures for the emerging Ballyfermot community, the site contained a recreation yard, and three classroom blocks with copper roofing.

The sale led to a strong public outcry, with local representatives and activists calling on DCC to preserve the sizeable and historical site for the needs of the community.

Serious vandalism of the vacant De La Salle monastery last year, only increased public anger and concern for the adjacent school grounds and buildings.

On Wednesday, the Conservation Section, Planning and Property Development Department at DCC, put forward a recommendation to add the central classroom block of the school to the council’s record of Protected Structures.

The Conservation Section carried out their own review of the site, after the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), failed to include the school in their assessment of the area.

Their report considers the central classroom block “the most ambitious in terms of architectural treatment”, also noting the “picturesque composition of the two stair towers.”

The two other former school buildings “reflect a more reserved and sparing deployment of detail.”

According to the Conservation Section, the existing central classroom block “lends itself favourably” to current local zoning ‘Z15’, which includes institutional, educational, recreational and community.

Cllr Hazel De Nortúin (PBP), welcomed the news as a “huge victory” for the area.

“I fought with the county manager last year to get this fastracked on the waiting list for Protected Structures. It is good to see councillors have some powers left, albeit limited.

“Ballyfermot is a young area, only 70 years old. It would be good to have some sort of history left as a landmark – besides the 18th Century St Johns House – rather than knocking it down and losing all character.”

Speaking at the area meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Daithí Doolan (SF), said: “This sends a message to all developers across the city – our heritage is not for sale.”

Cllr Vincent Jackson (Ind) said he sought to have the buildings added to the Protected Structure list when the Brothers still resided there, forseeing potential loss of local heritage.

He added his wish for the monastery to be added to the list, a building DCC have previously stated does not meet the criteria to be included as a Protected Structure.

Despite many requests, Ballyfermot councillors have yet to meet with the developer, but they are now more hopeful of doing so to discuss proposals.

DCC area manager Mary Taylor said: “The developer is still in pre-planning stage with the council’s planning department.”

She said they were not yet in a position to meet councillors until they further developed their proposal.

The Conservation Section recommendation was agreed by councillors at the South Central area meeting.

Following a statutory public consultation process, it will eventually go forward to a full council meeting where the 63 members will decide whether or not to proceed with the recommendation, to add the central block to the council’s list of Protected Structures.

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