Opening of Tyrone Strule campus to be delayed by a year

Former executive ministers John O'Dowd, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness pictured in 2015 during a visit to the flagship Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh. Picture by Michael Cooper

THE opening of a Co Tyrone shared education campus that will cost almost £60 million more than first estimated will now be delayed by a year, it has been claimed.

The Strule campus in Omagh, which will involve six schools, had been due for completion before September 2020 but it will not be finished until up to 12 months later due to "procurement issues".

The delay was confirmed to West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff in a letter from the Department of Education.

Last year it emerged that converting the former Lisanelly military barracks would cost almost £160m compared to original estimates of £100m.

A mix of grammar, non-grammar, Catholic, state and special schools will occupy the site.

Each will have their own buildings but will share other facilities in an attempt to increase opportunities for collaboration.

So far, just one school has opened – Arvalee School and Resource Centre – which was built at a cost of £8.2m.

Mr McElduff said he was concerned about slippage in the completion date.

"This is indisputably an iconic project which will help to meet the best educational interests of many young people in the Omagh area for generations to come," the Sinn Féin MP said.

"There is strong political and community consensus around the development of six schools on a single site – it has been consistently identified as a programme for government priority with ring-fenced capital funding."

Mr McElduff said he was seeking an "imminent meeting" with Department of Education officials, where he would be seeking a "full briefing on the procurement issues, which are said to have caused this delay".

"I will be seeking a renewed commitment on the part of the Department to overcome any further hurdles should they arise," he said.

In addition to Arvalee School and Resource Centre, the five schools signed up to the flagship project are Loreto Grammar, Omagh High, Sacred Heart College, Omagh Academy and Christian Brothers Grammar.

Drumragh Integrated College had been invited to be part of the proposed shared campus at Lisanelly but instead opted for a building of its own.

Plans were first announced in April 2008.

A spokesman for the Department of Education spokesperson said the completion date had been revised in order to resolve a "number of important, emergent issues".

"Progress against the programme milestones is kept under constant review," the spokesman said.

"Changes to any major milestone will not be made without full consideration of potential implications.?"

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