£140m shared school project in Northern Ireland postponed until 2021
The opening of a £140million shared school campus in Tyrone has been postponed until 2021, it has been claimed.
The Strule Shared Education Campus project in Omagh was originally to open in 2020. But due to "a number of procurement issues" from the Department of Education, the opening has been delayed by a year.
Plans for the site were initially submitted in 2010, with work beginning in 2013.
Converting the former Lisanelly army base into six schools, SDLP's former Planning Minister Alex Attwood has said that "the new campus will be at the forefront of shared education in Omagh and the North."
The project will include a mix of Catholic, grammar, non-grammar and special schools. So far only one school has opened on the Strule site - Arvalee School and Resource Centre.
It is estimated almost 4000 students will attend the schools on campus.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "The main works procurement is "live" and which limits how much detail can be provided due to commercial sensitivites.
"Over the past nine months a significant amount of work has been done on two major procurements. The Department of Education was faced with a number of important, emergent issues, and they have taken some time to resolve. It was vitally important that the issues were resolved in the correct way."
The Department added: "As a result the provisional completion date has been revised to 2021. Progress against the programme milestones is kept under constant review."
Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff said he is concerned about slippage in the in the completion date of the Strule Education Campus project in Omagh.
After receiving a letter from the Department of Education about the delayed completion date, Mr McElduff said: "I welcome a pledge from the Department of Education to keep the Strule Shared Education Campus project in Omagh moving forward 'at pace'.
"However, any slippage in the completion date is concerning. This is indisputably an iconic project which will help to meet the the best educational interests of many young people in the Omagh area for generations to come."
The West Tyrone representative stated: "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 (PfG) priority with ring-fenced capital funding.
"All schools involved have been committed and creative in helping to plan and design the project."
Mr McElduff added: "Once a British Army Garrison and a symbol of division in the County town of Tyrone, the Strule site now offers an alternative vision of unity and great hope for the future.
"I am seeking an imminent meeting with the Department of Education officials for 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."
Belfast Telegraph Digital