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School hopes for brand new building

An east Belfast primary school has taken one step closer to securing a brand new school after it emerged that proposals will go before Belfast City Council tonight (Thursday).

Victoria Park Primary School on Strandburn Street has been seeking permission to redevelop the site for 15 months now.

The Planning Service has said that it is satisfied with the application, and it will now go before the council’s Town and Planning Committee.

Should the plans be passed by council, focus will shift to the Department of Education, and whether or not they can provide the funds to finance the project.

Local Ulster Unionist Councillor and former chair of Belfast and Education and Library Board, Jim Rodgers, said he was “quietly confident” that the department would provide the money.

The school’s principal Andrea Gourley described the development as “very good news”.

She said: “We’ve waited a long time on this — it’s another step forward. All we are waiting on now is funding. We’re very hopeful that we’re next in line for capital funding from the department in April, at the start of the new financial year.

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“At the minute we have children from four different schools in east Belfast here. It would be lovely to have the new space and accommodation that we badly need. It will have such a positive impact on the whole east Belfast area.”

Contractors are understood to have already been chosen to work on the new school.

This follows a series of meetings between planners, architects, Belfast Education and Library Board officials, and councillors.

Councillor Rodgers said that everything was “ready to go” at Victoria Park Primary School, adding: “This is a wonderful school, and this news is not just great for the school, but for east Belfast.

“I am delighted, along with the teachers, governors, parents, and pupils associated with the school.”

A Planning Service spokesperson said: “Demolition of Grade B+ listed Sydenham Primary School, with retention of 50m sq at Victoria Park Primary School, Strandburn Street, Belfast was |received on October 13 2009.

“The applications are due to go before Belfast City Council with an opinion to approve.”

Education Minister Catriona Ruane said: “It is regrettable my budgets have been cut, and the potential for new school starts is poor, unless additional funding is allocated. It is a question of priority, and I would urge all elected representatives to support my efforts to increase the funding allocations for schools.”

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