Bower states ‘urgent need’ for outdoor sports project


A view of Our Lady’s Bower High School.

A major outdoor sports development, comprising two synthetic turf pitches, a synthetic sprint track and a new building with changing rooms, aims to address the lack of outdoor facilities at one of the city’s main secondary schools.

The new proposal, laid bare in a new town planning application filed on October 27, focuses on the development of what is described as “outdoor sports, recreation and wellness facilities” on a site. land next to Our Lady’s Bower in Athlone.

What is on offer is a new building, which would provide changing rooms and storage facilities, as well as two multi-sport artificial turf playing surfaces with fencing and lighting. In addition, the project would include a synthetic sprint track with lighting, recreational facilities and outdoor exercise equipment, walkways, fences, a nature trail and seating.

Outlining the background and the “urgent need” for the project, director Anne Beades said in a letter that in 2008 they completed a “major school building project” with the new premises located south of the line. railway that separates it (new school) from the convent building, the boarding school and the grounds. However, in 2014, La Sainte Union administrators closed the convent / boarding school and have since sold the building and grounds which included a tennis court, basketball court and gravel hockey field.

“While the 2008 development included a gymnasium and a full-size fitness room, the school has no external facilities other than parking areas,” says the director in a letter included in the planning documents.

“Since the sale of the convent grounds, the provision of physical education and extracurricular activities has been limited mainly indoors due to the lack of outdoor sports facilities”, continues the director. “Combined with this, the lack of external sports facilities has meant that we are not in a position to consider the introduction of the physical education leaving certificate as an examination subject despite the enormous interest and requests from our physical education teachers, our cohort of students and our parents ”adds the principal of the secondary school in the letter, saying that they are currently renting out external sports facilities and are counting on the goodwill of other sports agencies to access their facilities.

Since the sale of the convent land, the school has been working alongside administrators “to establish the potential to develop administrator-owned land” on the school side of the railway line.

“Our administrators recognize that we do not have outdoor sports facilities and therefore the school is impoverished. The administrators have given us permission for the proposed project on the understanding that it meets the needs of the school; they have agreed that the development will take place on their land next to the school building, ”says the principal in the letter, saying she hopes this will give an overview of the current situation at the school on Retreat Road and will help identify the “urgent need” for the project.

A number of biodiversity mitigation works will be carried out as part of the sports project, plans also reveal, including “areas of limestone meadows, planting of native trees and shrubs”. An ecological impact study report was also submitted with the town planning documents as part of the initiative.

Westmeath County Council is expected to announce a decision on the outdoor sports project for the girls-only school, which currently has 682 students, by December 21.

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