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Design team to be appointed for new £30M Southern College campus in city

EXCLUSIVE

A design team is to be appointed shortly for the construction of three new multi-million education campuses in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Armagh I can exclusively reveal.

The Department of Finance and Personnel, is seeking to award a contract for the professional services required to build new facilities for the Southern Regional College in each of the three areas.

The new campus in Armagh, which was estimated to cost in the region of £30 million, would be constructed on land in the existing Lonsdale/College Hill area. It would cover a massive 16,250 sq metre site.

The Banbridge development would be the smallest of the three, yet still substantial, stetching to 6,000 sq metres. It would be constructed on the existing Castlewellan Road site.

The Craigavon campus will be the largest of the three, at 18,500 sq metres, and will replace the facilities in Lurgan and Portadown.

A site has yet to be identified for the campus, for which £22.5 million has already been secured by the Department of Employment and Learning under the UK Government and NI Executive’s joint economic pact, Building a Prosperous and United Community.

That particular proposal, announced in July, is for “a single new high quality campus in Craigavon to serve schools, students, employers and the community”, and construction work is targeted for 2015/16.

The Armagh element in the plans has been in the pipeline somewhat longer.

In 2010, a team from SRC, including Chief Executive Brian Doran, attended a meeting of Armagh City and District Council to outline plans for the SRC estate.

In relation to Armagh, the case has long been argued for a new-build, as it currently uses a range of facilities across the city, much of which has become run down. The plan has always been to create a new campus to provide enhanced facilities in a more managed and easily accessible area.

Of course in the current climate and with most departments, excepting Health and Education, facing budgetary cuts, all of these works will depend upon finance.

But the Department of Finance and Personnel has now advertised a tender relating to the works required to drive the project forward.

The closing date for interested parties to submit applications for the services contract comes on Friday, October 31.

The contract to be awarded is for £3 million and will last for the next five years.

That is for an ‘economic operator’ to provide the services of an Integrated Consultancy Team (ICT), which will be charged with managing the entire project and costs, including architecture, engineering and the employment of other construction professionals in related disciplines.

The ICT will also be responsible for development an ‘exemplar design’ up to a Royal Institute of British Architects ‘plan of work stage’.

For each new campus, the team will ensure that environmental impact assessment and traffic impact studies are carried out and will submit detailed proposals to go before the Department of Environment for planning approval.

Under the supervision of the Southern Regional College, the ICT will also bring together an integrated supply team for each campus and administer contracts.

Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, in response to a question from Newry and Armagh SDLP Assemblyman Dominic Bradley last January, said he recognised that there had not been as much investment in the SRC catchment area as in other parts of the Province.

And he commented back then: “Subject to resources, we will look favourably on making investments in that area, including, hopefully, the Armagh area.”

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