Northern Ireland news

Work on Omagh shared education campus remains suspended

Building work on the first phase, was for new accommodation for Arvalee Special School, which has completed

WORK on a flagship shared education campus remains suspended - raising fresh concerns about when it will open.

The start date for the Strule project in Omagh has already been revised twice.

It was due to open next year but this was pushed back to 2021 and then to 2022.

The co-location of six schools in the town is intended to increase opportunities for collaboration and sharing of facilities.

A mix of grammar, non-grammar, Catholic, state and special schools will occupy the former barracks at Lisanelly. So far, just one has opened - Arvalee School and Resource Centre - which was built for £8.2 million.

In February 2018 the procurement process for the project was suspended, and has not progressed since.

SDLP assembly member Daniel McCrossan said not enough was being done.

He said it was frustrating that there was no education minister or Stormont in place to prioritise the project.

Mr McCrossan said he received a letter that showed there was "very little movement in advancing the project at all".

"This is deeply frustrating and it is equally as frustrating that there are no institutions in place to prioritise this," he said.

"The two political parties deliberately holding up Stormont are also holding up this project. They can support the Strule project while on the sidelines while in reality they could face it head on. They are letting the people of Omagh and the wider Tyrone area down."

Mr McCrossan said Strule was a critical development for the north west.

"It should provide a boost for the construction industry, create new jobs and advance shared education in our communities," he added.

"It is reprehensible that it's been delayed so long, that very little has been done and that this has been allowed to go unchallenged."

The Department of Education confirmed that the main works procurement for Strule "remains in suspension".

Necessary work was being progressed to review costs, benefits, risks and procurement options, a spokeswoman said.

"Timescales are being reviewed as part of that process. While the procurement delay is ongoing we are doing all we possibly can to expedite the main construction as soon as possible," she added.

"The Department of Education remains fully committed to delivering this educationally and strategically significant programme and continues to work closely with the six school principals and their teams to build on the culture of sharing in Omagh through a wide range of shared education initiatives which will be getting underway this year.

"In the meantime all other work on the programme, including construction and non-construction projects is continuing uninterrupted. The site preparation works and Strathroy Link Road are both due to complete in October."

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