St. Peter's Hospital, Castlepollard

St Peter’s Should Be Repurposed As Training centre

From the Westmeath Examiner website.

The St Peter’s site in Castlepollard would be the perfect location for a national education and training centre, a local councillor has suggested.

In a press release issued to the Westmeath Examiner, Cllr Denis Leonard said that while the news last month that Mullingar has been chosen at the lotion for a new national centre to train people to repair and maintain electrical vehicles is “very welcome for Westmeath”, it is “only the tip of the iceberg on the amount of apprenticeships and traineeships that will have to be rolled out across the midlands and across the country in the coming years”.

Cllr Leonard says that state-owned sites, such as St Peter’s should be re-purposed as training centres.

“The Action Plan For Apprenticeships includes a goal of 10,000 apprentice registrations per annum by 2025. To achieve that, the National Apprenticeship Office (NAO) estimates that the number of active apprenticeship employers will need to increase to at least 12,000. From retrofitting to renewables, from electrical to construction, industries are crying out for trained tradespeople to answer Ireland’s growing housing crisis and climate change commitments.”

“Among the opportunities are disused state buildings like St Peter’s in Castlepollard. Building any educational development on a greenfield site takes years of planning and an extensive business case. Rents are through the roof for anything the state looks to lease. A much more viable proposition is to look at vacant state buildings and re-purpose them for essential health, educational and community infrastructure. Otherwise what seems to happen is developers buy them up to put in whatever gets them the most return, as we have seen happen in numerous communities. Communities are then left without essential infrastructure.

“Castlepollard Local Development have been exploring the possible re-purposing of the St Peter’s complex for the benefit of the community. They are interested in developing the idea of using the facilities as an educational centre with the view to offering apprenticeships and traineeships that would be useful to local people to gain employment or start their own businesses and strengthen the local economy.

“It is also envisaged that the centre could be used on a wider scale as an educational training centre. Thousands of people live within 15km of Castlepollard that would consider it their nearest centre. Climate change means having as many services as close to where people need them as possible, so rather taking essential facilities out as they did with the Social Protection office (and allowed to happen with the banks), sustainable planning needs to be about putting essential services close to where people need them.

“The group have discussed the concept with some of the businesses in the area and have received a positive response. They have also put the idea forward as part of the Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP) consultation process. There is plenty of scope to explore areas connected to the green economy and preparing the workforce to avail of opportunities presented by just transition funding.

“LWETB, who would run it, already have a presence in Castlepollard Community College and many of the secondary students could move to an educational facility on their doorstep. This kind of forward thinking need to be explored further and the group are now working with Westmeath County Council to further develop the concept of putting a fine building back into community use for with essential services for our region, our country and our climate.”

2023 12 04 Westmeath Examiner