The Department of Education says it is still consulting with a range of stakeholders in a bid to find a suitable site for a multi-million pound new school development in Newtownabbey.
Abbey Community College, which opened in September 2015 following the merger of Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High, is on the department’s list for new school building projects. However, the plans have stalled, with the authorities admitting that they have been unable to find a suitable site for the new post-primary.
In June 2014, then Education Minister John O’Dowd confirmed that the college was one of 15 schools across Northern Ireland that would benefit from new build projects as part of a £170m capital investment.
At that stage it was thought the new school would be constructed either at Bridge Road in Monkstown (the college’s current location), or the former Newtownabbey Community High site at Rathcoole Drive. But now the department has confirmed that neither location is suitable.
“The process of identifying a suitable site for the new build for Abbey Community College has been very challenging and despite much activity this remains the position today,” a Department of Education spokesperson explained. “The sites of the former Monkstown Community School and Newtownabbey Community High School are not suitable for the new development.”
TUV Cllr David Hollis, who has raised the matter with the Education Authority, revealed that land at Whiteabbey Hospital is being considered for the new school.
He said that discussions are ongoing between the Department of Education and Department of Health, but claimed that it could be several years before the project reaches the construction stage.
“It would appear that there will be no new school build in the immediate future,” he said. “I’m calling on the new Education Minister to have this school up and running as quickly as possible. Five years is too long for pupils to be held back.”
Responding to Cllr Hollis’ comments, the department spokesperson continued: “The Department of Education is consulting with a range of stakeholders in relation to other potential sites and it is hoped that an appropriate location will soon be found. It is not possible to put a definitive timescale on the completion of the project.
“No decisions have been taken regarding the future use of either the Bridge Road or the Rathcoole sites.”