By Dara Gantly.
Outline plans for a redevelopment of the 7.3-hectare commercial and residential Elm Park campus for use as the National Children’s Hospital (NCH) have been submitted to the Minister for Health, Irish Medical Times understands.
The suggested plans to convert the existing buildings located near Merrion Gates, which are only part-occupied and predominantly administered by the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA), have been drawn up by Buchan Kane & Foley Architects.
The firm believes adapting the buildings could result in significant cost savings on construction and should facilitate fast-track planning and development, allowing the NCH to become operational within three-to-four years.
The plans outline that more than 37,000 square metres of flexible floorspace already exists in four blocks, which could be supplemented by new linking buildings and additional accommodation on adjoining grounds.
Existing residential accommodation includes more than 200 apartments, which could also be used to house medical staff, and the development already includes a gymnasium, swimming pool, crèche and restaurant.
Located within 15 minutes’ drive to the M50, city centre and Port Tunnel, the campus is beside the DART and could potentially have direct rail links to Belfast or Wexford.
The outline plans also include a new ‘Strand’ DART station, which could be opened beside Merrion Gates, with a bridge over the main road, to offer direct access to the hospital.
A possible new link road down from the Radisson Hotel on the N11 could also alleviate concerns over congestion on the coast road, the architects believe.
Over 1,200 car parking spaces are available in existing surface and underground car parks, and the campus is located beside St Vincent’s University Hospital, St Vincent’s Private and is a two-minute drive from the Blackrock Clinic.
The proposed works would include the construction of atrium link buildings between the existing office buildings, to provide reception areas, public waiting areas, a food court and indoor playgrounds, with operating theatres, labs and other medical facilities housed in either the existing buildings or incorporated into these new linking structures.
Protected by a new proposed breakwater to the east of the rail line, an overflow car park and seaside walk have also been included in the plans, while the design team also believe a vacant site opposite the Tara Towers Hotel could be used to develop additional budget hotel accommodation for use by parents travelling with their children from the country.
Adjoining grounds, currently in institutional use, could also be re-developed to provide a new maternity hospital, co-located with the NCH.
Earlier this week, news emerged of a 50-acre greenfield site in Swords that the Broadmeadow Healthcare Group believes would be suitable for the paediatric hospital, and reports have indicated the Sisters of Mercy have agreed to offer the old Mater adult hospital as a solution to retaining the project on the original Mater campus.
Minister Dr James Reilly has reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring the delivery of a world-class hospital for the children of Ireland, providing the highest-quality treatment they deserve.
The review group established to consider the decision of An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the hospital at the Mater site held its first meeting on March 29, and is tasked within reporting back to the Minister within 56 days — around May 24.