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Planning authority raised concerns about fire evacuation at Hyde & Seek creche before its construction

A number of fire safety issues at the creche chain were raised during an RTÉ documentary last night.

The purpose-built Hyde & Seek creche in Glasnevin
The purpose-built Hyde & Seek creche in Glasnevin
Image: Google Street View

POTENTIAL FIRE SAFETY issues at one of the creches featured in last night’s RTÉ Investigates documentary were raised by An Bord Pleanála four years ago, TheJournal.ie can reveal.

Senior planning inspector Kevin Moore reported in 2015 that there would be problems evacuating a proposed creche at Prospect Road in Glasnevin because of its size and location.

The purpose-built creche, which is operated by the chain Hyde & Seek and opened in 2018, went unregistered with Tusla for 14 months before it was legally compliant.

Earlier this year, the company pleaded guilty at the Dublin District Court because of the non-registration of the creche, but was read the Probation Act.

Planning documents show that it was recommended that permission for the building should be refused by An Bord Pleanála in 2015, when Moore said its construction would present a traffic hazard and that it would be out of character with the area.

He also noted that the functioning of the proposed facility in terms of its fire safety should be acknowledged, despite recognising that it was a matter outside the board’s remit.

He wrote:

It is apparent that in times of a hazard arising, there is likely to be a concern about the ability to accommodate a safe evacuation from this site, unavoidable by the scale of development on this site, which cannot make adequate arrangements within the site’s confines.
This requires to be acknowledged.

However, despite Moore’s recommendations, the development was granted permission by the board, which did not believe that the building would present a traffic hazard, or that it would be out-of-keeping with the local area.

There was no mention of the fire safety issues raised by Moore in the board’s decision.

The planning application also said the facility would accommodate 91 childcare spaces when constructed, but a TUSLA inspection report from February said the service would provide care for 111 children.

The same report also noted that fire extinguishers at the creche had not been serviced since December 2017, and that no evidence had since been submitted to sA number of fire safety concerns relating to other Hyde & Seek creches in Dublin were raised during last night’s RTÉ Investigates documentary.

It emerged that a TUSLA inspector previously recorded more children on the site of the company’s Shaw Street creche than was permitted under fire safety regulations.

An undercover RTÉ researcher also found that the sleep room at the creche was cramped and regularly used as a store room for spare cots and furniture, leaving access to children and babies difficult.

“In terms of a fire occurring, it is a very serious issue that the staff cannot get access to the children to assist them to escape the building in what will be a panic situation,” chartered surveyor Kevin Hollingsworth told RTÉ.

At another Hyde & Seek creche on Tolka Road in Dublin 3, cots were similarly squeezed against each other in the sleep room, where boxes and furniture was also stored.

It was found that the creche did not comply with its approved fire safety certificate by placing more cots in the room, blocking the emergency exit – a contravention of the Fire Services Act.

Motorised shutters at the creche were closed while children remained inside, leaving the only means of escape more than 20 metres away, a claim which was denied by Hyde & Seek in a statement to RTÉ.

A researcher also discovered that the fire safety register at the creche was not kept up-to-date, that no fire safety training was carried out, and that no drills ever took place.

RTÉ subsequently reported fire safety issues to Dublin Fire Brigade, and said last night that it understood that inspections of the facilities at Shaw Street and Tolka Road had since been carried out.

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It also alleged that a letter sent by owners of the creche to parents, which claimed that Dublin Fire Brigade had found no issues with fire safety at Tolka Road, were false.

The broadcaster said that an inspector had found six deficits at the facility, and that Dublin Fire Brigade had issued a warning letter to Hyde & Seek.

Yesterday it emerged that the owner of Hyde & Seek, Anne Davy, had stepped down and would have no further involvement in frontline childcare provision following RTÉ’s revelations about the chain.

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