Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Ghost schools: Empty and unused for 15 years... and there are 38 more just like it

The dilapidated remains of Ravarnette Primary School in Lisburn
The dilapidated remains of Ravarnette Primary School in Lisburn

It's been almost 15 years since this historic school heard the laughter of children and scratching of pencils on paper.

Ravarnette Primary School in Lisburn was closed in 1999 – yet today it still stands boarded up, graffitied and unused.

It is one of 39 closed schools across Northern Ireland which remain in the ownership of education and library boards.

DUP MLA Jonathan Craig (right), uncovered the ghost schools through an Assembly question and has questioned why the situation is being allowed to continue.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) owns the most former schools – 14 including Ravarnette and Lisnasharragh High School, which was attended by football legend George Best.

Lisnasharragh was closed in August 2008 but stood vacant for over five years until recent demolition works started.

Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) owns eight of these sites, the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) owns seven, while the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) and Southern Education and Library Board (SELB) own five sites each.

The fact that the boards are still holding on to 39 closed schools was revealed by Education Minister John O'Dowd in his response to an Assembly question. He confirmed that it was the boards, not his department, that bear responsibility for the closed schools.

"These properties may still be under consideration for other educational purposes, bound by covenants, leased or at some stage of the disposal process," he said in response to Mr Craig.

Mr Craig said the boards have "big questions to answer" over why they have held on to some of these buildings for so long.

"All these surplus schools is something of huge concern to me," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Why they are still holding on to so many of them. If they had have been sold off at the height of the property boom they could have made a substantial amount of money from them."

A spokeswoman for the NEELB said that two of its sites are being used for other board services.

A spokesman for the BELB said one of its eight sites was currently in use while there were plans for three others.

A spokeswoman for the WELB said Ballycolman Nursery School was now being used by St Mary's Primary School, and it had expressions of interest in the other four former school sites.

The other boards were each contacted for a response but hadn't replied by the time of going to press.

QUOTE

"All these surplus schools are of huge concern to me. The boards have big questions to answer over why they are still holding on to them. If they had have been sold off at the height of the property boom, they could have made a substantial amount of money from them. But instead they are still holding on to them."

Jonathan Craig, DUP

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