Northern Ireland

Strule campus: Schools project has already cost £45m

Strule Shared Education Campus, Omagh Image copyright Google

A delayed shared education campus in Omagh has cost £45m to date, with just one of the six schools scheduled to go on the site up and running.

Work began on the Strule site in 2013, but so far, only Arvalee Special School has been completed.

In 2017, the completion date was pushed back to 2021. A year later, the NIO said it would be 2022.

Now, the "provisional opening of the campus is planned for September 2024 at the earliest".

In a written question to the education minister Peter Weir, Ulster Unionist assembly member Rosemary Barton asked for a breakdown of the expenditure to date on the stalled project.

Mr Weir said £45,154,000 had been spent on the site.

Work has yet to begin on building the five other schools.

Loreto Grammar School, Omagh High School, Sacred Heart College, Omagh Academy and Christian Brothers Grammar School are set to move to the shared site.

Image copyright Artist's impression
Image caption Six schools would move onto the site and share facilities

An NI Audit Office report from December, which looked at major capital projects in Northern Ireland, said the Strule campus was originally estimated to cost £168.9m.

The report estimated its final cost will now be £213.7m.

That is a projected overspend of £44.8m, approximately a quarter of its original budget.

Mrs Barton said following the latest information from Mr Weir, it was "vital an urgent review of the proposal takes place to establish a more accurate timeline and re-assess the project".

Tendering issues

The project's aim is to bring the six schools and more than 4,000 pupils onto the site of the former Lisanelly army base.

More than 300 buildings have been demolished, designs for the schools have been completed and full planning permission was granted.

However, in 2018 the process to appoint a contractor was suspended after one of two bidders withdrew from the process.

A spokesperson for Department of Education said: "In light of this delay the campus go live date has been revised. Provisional opening of the campus is planned for September 2024 at the earliest.

"This is dependent on works commencing on site by May 2021 at the latest."

When asked when a contractor might be appointed, the spokesperson said it would be "inappropriate to comment... due to commercial sensitivity".

"The department is working diligently to move the Strule Programme forward.

"The tender competition to appoint a contractor is suspended, but remains live," they added.

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