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Craigavon park dispute: Legal action over college plans approval

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image copyrightSRC
image captionAn image of the proposed £45m college which will be sited on the edge of the lake

A legal challenge is to be mounted to planning approval for a £45m college campus in a public park in Craigavon.

The proposal for the new Southern Regional College on the edge of the south lake was passed last night.

Councillors on Armagh Banbridge Craigavon Borough Council's planning committee approved the decision after several hours of debate.

But campaigners, who say it will mean the development of 12 acres of the park, are to seek a judicial review.

image captionThe proposed development is on 12 acres of the existing park

The new college would see the merger of the Lurgan and Portadown campuses on a single site.

Campaigners have argued alternative sites are available.

Backers of the plan said they looked at other options but the lakeside location was the most appropriate.

It was chosen because it was central and neutral with good public transport links.

image captionPark users say they like the tranquillity of the site

It will be close to the new £35m leisure centre, Craigavon Civic Centre and the Rushmere Shopping centre.

Opponents have said the campus plan will impact the tranquillity of the area with about 2,000 students a year in attendance.

They also said trees will have to be removed to facilitate the building work.

The Southern Regional College has plans for five acres of replacement habitat to compensate for the construction of the low-rise building.

College authorities said planning approval was "fantastic news" which would support hundreds of construction jobs and "transform education provision".

image copyrightSRC
image captionAbout 2,000 full time students will attend the college each year

"This significant investment will immediately and positively impact upon our communities and will contribute to the economic prosperity and opportunity for the region," said Chief Executive Brian Doran.

Kelly Laverty of Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes group said they were "disappointed but not surprised" by the decision.

She questioned the right of the council to take the decision claiming that, given its scale, it ought to have been transferred to the Department for Infrastructure.

image captionThere have been protests at the council decision to sell the land

She claimed not enough consideration had been given to the views of park users.

"The process was flawed and the next stage is judicial review," she said.

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  • £33m Craigavon college site opposed by park users