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£25m St Ronan’s new-build could be back on track as it goes out to tender again

Last month plans were thrown into chaos but, if things proceed beyond this point with no further setbacks, the new state-of-the-art school in Lurgan could still be built and in use by 2024

Plans for the construction of a new state-of-the-art St Ronan’s College in Lurgan – due to be built at a cost of £25 million – have gone out to tender again, Armagh I can reveal.

The development process was thrown into chaos last month after it was confirmed the procurement process had collapsed. That had happened despite work on the school – to accommodate upwards of 1,750 pupils and due to open in 2023 – having started earlier this year.

After news of the procedural bombshell dropped, St Ronan’s principal Mrs Fiona Kane described it as a “bump on the road” but insisted the new school would be built, as they worked to “re-run the tender competition under a different model”, something which has now come to pass.

Today (Friday), the Education Authority, according to Construction Information Services (CIS), has gone out to tender again seeking an “integrated supply team” to deliver the long-awaited development.

According to the tender papers, the project is for the appointment of a “develop and construct team” for the provision of a “new amalgamated school to replace three existing post primary schools in Lurgan: St Mary’s Junior High School, St Paul’s College and St Michael’s Grammar”.

The tender specifics direct: “The new school is to be constructed on the existing school site at St Michael’s Grammar, Lurgan and extended to include sports pitches.”

The site has already been vacated.

The scope of the successful application will be for the provision of a new school to accommodate 1,750 pupils.

It would boast an internal floorspace of around 19,000 sq metres, which is in line with the Department of Education’s guidelines.

The accommodation and features would include a wide range of departmental teaching facilities, as well as Assembly Hall and gymnasium, sports hall and PE facilities, school meals accommodation, 6th Form Accommodation, as well as main staff and pupil entrances, and school support and administration.

The tender also includes the demolition of existing facilities, as well as asbestos removal.

It would involve too the construction of sport pitches and changing pavilion, as well as a grounds maintenance workshop and garage.

The publication of the tender could see the delivery of this exciting new-build back on track.

Pictured are Charlie McConville, Vice Principal; Daniel McCavigan, Head Boy; Patricia Carville, Chair, Board of Governors; Fiona Kane, Principal; Fionnuala McGuinness, Head Girl; and Ita Cosgrove, Vice Principal.

Mrs Kane – speaking last month – had expressed disappointment but gave reassurances of the work which was ongoing to make the new St Ronan’s College a reality.

She said at the time: “Due to unprecedented external circumstances on procurement and the construction market affecting every sector in Northern Ireland, it has not been possible to appoint an IST/Main contractor within our original timeframe.

“Whilst we are disappointed by this short delay, on behalf of the College, I wish to reassure everyone associated with St Ronan’s College that the Project Board, the Education Authority and the Department of Education continue to work extremely hard as a team, supporting the college to ensure that the vision for the new campus for St Ronan’s College becomes a reality as soon as possible.

“We are currently working with our professional teams to readjust our construction programme to take account of the delay in awarding the main contract and we are finalising an approach to allow us to re-run the tender competition under a different model to minimise the impact of this unfortunate delay in our programme.

“Whilst our project may have lost a beat, our work is proceeding at pace and is being taken forward at the highest level both within the EA and the Department of Education.

“We are blessed at St Ronan’s College to enjoy the full and committed support of our community and I wish to assure them that together we will deliver this college campus and we will make the vision of our school at the heart of the community and community at the heart of our school a reality.”

As indicated by the principal, the tender process has now re-opened and interested parties have until 3pm on Monday, December 20, to make their submissions.

Bids will be opened after that time and, it is expected, depending on the quality and aptitude of the applications received, an appointment made earlier in the New Year.

The duration of the contract has been given as 25 months, which means, if things proceed to plan beyond this point with no further setbacks, the school could still be completed by 2024.

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