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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Green light for new £25M school building in Glens

Planning permission has been approved for a new £25m school building in the Glens of Antrim.

A proposal for the construction of a new 9,737 sq metre building and demolition of existing school buildings at St Killian’s College, Carnlough, was given the go-ahead by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee at a meeting on Thursday.

Council officer Henry McAlister told the committee that the proposed redevelopment involves a new building attached to the existing listed Garron Tower, the ground floor of which will be refurbished at the 11-hectare Tower Road site.

It is located in the Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Mr McAlister told the meeting:

“There are particular sensitivities with this site in terms of its scenic location, the existing listed buildings, areas of archaeological interest and protected national and European sites which are in close proximity.

“The proposed lay-out includes a phased development to allow the school to operate to remain open with main demolition works to take place during school holidays.

“The new buildings are generally to be located on the established built footprint of the existing site with a mix of two and three storey buildings over split levels mostly finished with flat roofs. This will reduce the overall visual impact.

“Extensive consultation has taken place throughout with a pre-application stage and through the process of these applications with the Historical Environment Division (HED) with regard to the potential impacts on the listed buildings as well as the areas of archaeological interest. HED have offered no objections to the proposal, subject to conditions set out in the report.

“The planning department find the design and lay-out of the buildings as well as the hard and soft landscaping works to be acceptable for this established school site.

“Similarly, no objections have been received from Roads Services, from NI Water, from Environmental Heath, from Rivers Agency, from geological service, from DAERA, their water management unit, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Natural Environment Division, or from the Shared Environmental Services.

“We had one letter of support and no objections.

“This is the redevelopment of an existing long-established school campus in the countryside. The scale, design and development of the proposed works are acceptable.

“The character and settings of the listed buildings on site will be maintained and enhanced. There are no significant adverse effects on the natural heritage of the surrounding area including nearby national and European sites. No objections from statutory consultees or members of the public.

“This proposal will provide modern educational facilities for 800 post-primary pupils and there will be wider community benefits. The planning department’s and HED recommendation is that full planning permission and listed building consent be granted subject to the conditions attached to the committee report.”

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan commented that currently school buildings are “scattered all over the site”.

“This is going to amalgamate all the diverse buildings into one purpose-built unit.”

Lucy Ashe, of Hamilton Architects, said:

“That is correct. We have a number of buildings scattered throughout the school that are to be demolished and collated into one building.

“The two listed buildings, the chapel and Garron Tower are retained. The Garron Tower is partially demolished. That would be the late extensions that have been added to the listed building, so the Garron Tower partially demolished back to the listed building extent and there will be a new-build building on site combining all of those separate blocks into one build and the Garron Tower ground floor will consist of sixth form accommodation that will be refurbished to suit. There is no connection between the new build and the listed building, Garron Tower.”

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Keith Turner queried:

“You said there has been an extensive survey carried out on the buildings. Has there been anything discovered within that survey that could impact the build, ie asbestos and things of that nature that if it came about that it had to be removed, it would impact on the students being taught.”

Cllr Turner also asked about the facilities that will be open to the students whilst building work is in progress.

He was informed that there are asbestos surveys ongoing and a previous survey undertaken in 2012 raised no concerns. Ms Ashe stressed that when the surveys are completed, the outcomes will be addressed to ensure there are no health and safety concerns.

She went on to say that a “phasing plan” will be put in place to address students decanting from the existing blocks and the phasing of the new build will be designed to suit that.

The council’s head of planning Paul Duffy explained:

“There is a condition with regard to contamination. If there is any contamination, that appropriate mediation measures will be taken.”

Coast Road DUP Cllr Angela Smyth stated:

“This is a good news story for the school. It started off Garron Tower and then St Killian’s. A lot of history there.

“It is great to see old buildings being retained. A new building will be great for future pupils and for the future of the school. I propose we accept the recommendation.”

Her proposal was seconded by Cllr Logan and approved unanimously.

Commenting on the decision, St Killian’s principal Jonny Brady said:

“I am delighted at what is a significant step forwards toward a new school in east Antrim and the Glens.

“I am especially delighted for all of our students and staff who thoroughly deserve to have the best resources to continue to deliver the high quality of learning and teaching which has been the hallmark of St Killian’s and for our parents who have supported us throughout this time and who will all now begin to see the rewards in the building of a state of the art school to deliver both curricular and pastoral excellence. It will be a great resource for the whole community.”

A further school statement said:

“The Trustees and Board of Governors of St Killian’s College are delighted to announce that planning permission has been granted by Mid & East Antrim Borough Council for new facilities and pitches for 800 pupils on the existing College site at Garron Tower.

“Listed Building consent has also been granted in respect of renovation works to part of the listed castle building on the site.”

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