Campaigners set to oppose plan for new college at Armagh wildlife haven
Protesters are set to oppose plans to build a new further education college in Co Armagh at a wildlife sanctuary.
The protest group was set up to raise awareness of proposals for land surrounding Craigavon Lakes and the public park — which is home to endangered species including bats and rare breeds of birds and butterflies.
The new Southern Regional College is set to replace the two existing colleges in Portadown and Lurgan.
Catriona Shatwell, spokesperson for the campaigners, said plans are also under way to build a new leisure centre to replace three existing facilities within the council area.
A meeting being hosted by Save Craigavon City Park will take place at 6.30pm tonight at Craigavon Civic Centre — the same day that Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council unveil the proposals.
Mrs Shatwell said the protest meeting is expected to attract large numbers of concerned residents, as well as sporting clubs and environmental campaigners. “A Facebook page was set up by people concerned about what is planned for the lakes and public park and, in a very short time, it has just gone viral,” Mrs Shatwell said.
“Most people are not against the leisure centre because it will be replacing the existing watersports centre and it is not encroaching into the woodland around the lakes.”
Ms Shatwell claimed that there was much opposition to the proposal.
“Thirty years ago my brother was involved in a tree planting project and those trees are now well established and hugely important to the local environment,” she added.
“I have seen bats, otters, long eared owls, all different types of rare and precious species of wildlife around here.
“If you stand at the far side of the lakes, you can’t see any buildings and it is absolutely beautiful. But those behind the plans want to take the trees down.
“A lot of people like myself can think of other sites which could, and should, be looked at as alternative locations for what is proposed.
“The meeting at the civic centre is an opportunity for people in the community to come and hear more about what is planned and to voice any objections.”
A spokeswoman for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council said: “The council is aware of initial concerns raised in relation to the perceived environmental impact of SRC plans which have been proposed but which have not yet been submitted.
“Given the complexity of issues involved, the council is well placed and positioned to fully scrutinise the details of any plan which is received and it is committed to drawing on the best independent expertise to ensure that the right outcome is secured.”