Belfast Telegraph

Decision not ‘nail in coffin’ for school bid

Funding has not been ruled out for a Co Tyrone school challenging the denial of nearly £15m to build a new school, the High Court has heard.

Lawyers for the Department of Education rejected claims that its stance represented “a final nail in the coffin” for Loreto Grammar's bid to construct on its existing site in Omagh. They also argued that even if the school is granted a judicial review it would not automatically receive the money.

The case centres on £14.6m of investment Loreto Grammar was promised in 2004 as part of a schools’ expansion plan. Since then, however, proposals have progressed for a shared education campus at the old Lisanelly military barracks.

Last summer the Department listed Loreto among eight schools rejected for new building plans for non-compliance with policy.

In court yesterday Loreto's legal team sought permission to amend the grounds of challenge to seek an order quashing a decision by the Minister in June 2010 that the proposed building project was non-compliant with sustainable schools' policy criteria.

David McMillen, for the Department, argued that no final decision has been taken. “It absolutely is not a final nail in any coffin.” He said the proposed campus would offer the best solution. He also pointed out that the Department does not have authority to provide £14.6m, but that the decision rested with the Department of Finance and Personnel. However, the judge granted permission for the school to amend its grounds of challenge.

Mr Justice McCloskey said the case may have been “frustrated by subsequent events and inertia in which the protagonists have been the current Minister for Education and senior departmental officials”.

The hearing continues.

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