Department ‘exploring options’ for new build for Newtownabbey school

The Department of Education is assessing a number of locations in Newtownabbey for a new build for Abbey Community College.

Friday, 11th December 2020, 12:27 pm
The current Abbey Community College site. Pic by Google.
The current Abbey Community College site. Pic by Google.

The post-primary school opened its doors to students in September 2015 on the site of the former Monkstown Community School.

The school was created by the merger of Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High.

Confirming that a number of locations are being considered for a new build, a Departmental spokesperson said: “The Department has been engaging with Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and other bodies in regard to potential sites for the new build school for Abbey Community College.

“Following a detailed site search in the area, three options have been considered with the technical feasibility exercise. The options considered include the existing school site and two other site options, one of which is council-owned land. The Department secured agreement from the council to include its site in this feasibility exercise.

“The current position in regard to the Abbey Community College is the Department is currently examining the Business Case submitted for the project by the Education Authority. The outcome of the Business Case will identify, from a number of technically feasible options, a preferred option for the new school. At that stage PAN can be issued for the preferred option and site.”

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council provided an update on the process after a Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) was issued earlier this week for the proposed erection of a new school site at the council-owned Three Mile Water Playing Fields.

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “Since the amalgamation of Newtownabbey High School and Monkstown Community High School, creating Abbey Community College on the Monkstown site, the Department of Education has been exploring the options for a new school at a number of locations within metropolitan Newtownabbey.

“The council was approached in relation to the Threemilewater land and agreed to allow initial exploration to take place.

“This exercise is part of the development of a business case for the new school which is yet to be completed and submitted to the Department for consideration.

“The council awaits further correspondence from the Department regarding its preferred location for the new school and will consider any requests for the purchase of land thereafter.”

A PAN is required for a major or regionally significant development and is submitted prior to planning permission being sought. It sets out how the applicant will seek the views of the community on the proposed development.

The PAN issued to the council and elected representatives on December 7 has since been withdrawn after it was sent “in error”.

A spokesperson for the agents Turley, said: “The Proposal of Application Notice and site location plan for lands at the Three Mile Water Playing fields on the Doagh Road, Newtownabbey, BT37 9PA, was issued yesterday (Monday, December 7) to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and elected representatives for the area in error, and has now been withdrawn.”

Ulster Unionist Cllr Robert Foster believes the former Newtownabbey Community High School site in Rathcoole, which has been earmarked for a new housing scheme, should have been considered for the new build.

The Macedon representative said: “It is hard to work out why they did not move to a site they had in their possession. Investment had been put into the Newtownabbey Community High building before the merger with Monkstown. Before this land was sold, it should have been considered.”

Voicing concerns about the withdrawl of the PAN, he added: “You would think that a more cohesive approach would be adopted before submitting a PAN only to withdraw it one day later especially when no business case has been developed for any site.”

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