Details of a €28m investment in social infrastructure at Carrickphierish, including a two-school educational campus in what will be one of the country’s first pre-planned urban neighbourhoods, were presented to the City Council on Monday night.

The Council has made available a site for two 16-classroom primary schools to be provided by the Department of Education and Science in the area where it is ultimately envisaged that 2,000 families will live. The primary schools, expected to open in September of 2010 and accommodate about 1,000 pupils, will be run as a Gaelscoil and Educate Together facility respectively, while two special needs units will also be provided. Younger children will be accommodated in pre-school and childcare facilities on an adjoining site which will also accommodate a youth and community facility.

An assembly hall due to be shared by the two schools is also to be upgraded by the Council to become a full-sized sports and community hall that will be available for a wide range of community uses outside of school hours. Included in the plan also are two hard-surfaced basketball courts.

Coady Partnership Architects, represented at the Council meeting by Anne Fletcher, have designed the three-storey school buildings to take on board the sloping nature of the site. It is envisaged that tenders for construction work on the schools will be sought early next year.

A new branch of Waterford City Library is also to be developed at the same location to ensure that services are available in a similar timeframe to large-scale residential development. The library building will also feature 1,600 square metres of office space.

Outdoor playgrounds and a recreational park are also to be provided in the area which is close to Waterford’s industrial employment base and Waterford Institute of Technology and within three kilometres of the city centre.

Operation of the proposed youth and community building – featuring sound recording studios as well as more traditional facilities – will be tendered and it is also intended to create an independent management structure to manage the childcare centre.

Welcoming the investment in providing social infrastructure ahead of large-scale residential development, the Mayor of Waterford, Cllr Jack Walsh, said Carrickphierish provided an excellent opportunity to frontload the provision of schools, childcare, youth and community facilities rather than trying to play catch-up, adding such amenities later, as had typically been done in other locations.

“Demographics tell you clearly that when you create large areas of housing, young couples will move in and these will soon have children requiring schooling. A great deal of work has been done already on how Carrickphierish can best work and a particularly attractive feature of what is planned is how the same buildings will be put to multiple uses so they really are whole community facilities”, said the Mayor.

“For instance, it is a good example of joined-up planning for the City Council to make the additional investment at this stage that will take the assembly hall to be shared by the primary schools and upgrade it to a full sports hall that will be used by the schools during term time but also be available in the evenings and at weekends to the wider community”.

The space will feature a stage and full acoustic design so that the same area where young children play their sports during the school week can be used at night and weekends for community concerts and other meetings and events.

For his part, City Manager Michael Walsh said he looked forward to seeing work commence on the rollout of the social infrastructure which had the potential to become a model for how neighbourhoods could be properly planned. “Underpinning what we hope to achieve at Carrickphierish and later at the second planned neighbourhood in the north-western suburbs at Gracedieu is a partnership approach across various agencies and we continue to receive excellent cooperation from various State agencies and Government departments”, he said.

“As the Mayor has stated, residential and commercial development often raced ahead of vitally important social facilities in the past. Forward planning is now a growing area of activity for Waterford City Council and this allows us take a wider view of various locations and their potential rather than simply dealing with individual planning applications as they are lodged”.