Calls for community uses not being heeded

Vacant: St Finan’s Hospital has been empty for a decade

Plans by the Health Service Executive to sell the land in the St Finan’s Hospital complex as part of a transaction to include the old hospital building itself will certainly drive up the price and restrict potential uses with some local speculation that it could bring the asking price to as high as €100 million.

There have been repeated calls for sections of the land to be acquired for social housing, affordable apartments, a third level college, a hospitality or catering school or a facility for health and community services but the HSE seems intent on selling it as one lot, significantly narrowing the target market.

A new 130-bed, 10,045sq m community nursing unit is to be built on one part of the grounds – close to the bypass road on a parcel of land previously used by Killarney Celtic FC – but that project which was due to enter the construction phase last summer has been delayed for reasons that haven’t been made public.

Fears have now been expressed that the protected Victorian building could fall into such a state of disrepair that it might have to be knocked.

Cllr John O’Donoghue
Cllr Maura Healy-Rae

Killarney councillor, John O’Donoghue, said while the HSE appears to have set out its stall on the matter, he intends to raise the matter at the next meeting of the board of which he is a member and question senior officials as to their intentions.

At this month’s meeting of Kerry County Council, Cllr Maura Healy-Rae said the St Finan’s site was prime land in a premier town and the local authority should do everything possible to acquire it and prevent it from going into private ownership.

Officials told her that the landbank remains in the ownership of the HSE and it has been under review and consideration by the Land Development Agency which is a commercial State-sponsored body created to coordinate land within State control for more optimal uses where appropriate, with a focus on the provision of housing.

A successful application from Kerry County Council to acquire 5.66 acres of HSE land – located in the Ballydribbeen area but still considered part of the hospital complex – was the only expression of interest received from any state body.

“There has been no further interest in the former St Finan’s building and surrounding lands and so it is the HSE’s intention to dispose of the remainder of this property, via public sale, in the near future,” senior HSE officials previously confirmed

The hospital, built in 1846, has been vacant since 2012.

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