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Free Presbyterian Church given go-ahead to build Bible Training College in Tandragee

The Free Presbyterian Church has been given the go-ahead to build its new Bible Training College in Tandragee.

Armagh I first revealed proposals for the development – adjacent to the Tandragee Free Presbyterian Church building – back in November 2021.

And now Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has given its backing for the building, which will be used to train future ministers for the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, which was founded by the late former Northern Ireland First Minister, the Rev Ian Paisley, some 70 years ago.

Those receiving training and instruction will also be able to learn skills which would help them in future overseas missionary work.

A professional planners report, which had recommended approval, reveals: “This building will be primarily used for the training of Ministers to work within the Free Presbyterian Church, both locally and for missionary work abroad.

“They will receive Bible and Theological Training, as well as basic motor mechanics skills for missionary work in remote parts of the world.

“The building will be inextricably linked with the adjacent Tandragee Church. It is an essential part of the training for students to learn public speaking skills within the main worship area.

“The building will also be used as overflow during large events within the church.”

The proposals for the two-storey development, in the Willowfield area of the town, were lodged by the Whitefield College of the Bible.

Currently based on the Banbridge Road in Gilford, Whitefield is an independent theological college which was established 40 years ago by the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

It offers a four-year course which is compulsory for those hoping to gain entry into the ministry of the Free Presbyterian Church.

The new building will be built on what is currently described as “agricultural lands” and will offer floorspace in excess of 6,300 sq ft.

The ground floor will include a lecture room and a large boardroom, as well as the principal’s office and secretary’s office, located next to the entrance lobby.

There would also be an ‘Historical Society Strong Room’, as well as male and female toilet provision, a first aid room, as well as storage and boiler room.

The first floor would offer a second lecture room, large library, a small boardroom, a student study room, and a kitchen and student relaxation room.

Both floors would be connected via stairs and lift.

There would be 36 car parking spaces, including three disabled bays, to the front and rear of the new facility.

Papers submitted to council indicate the new development would see on average 23 people attending the premises daily – three of them ‘staff’.

Officers are content that there is no real impact on neighbouring properties.

The official report states: “The nearest residential dwellings are located approximately 120m away at the Knightsbridge and Turnberry Green developments.

“Officers, in consultation with the Environmental Health Department, are satisfied that, given the layout, construction type and separation distances involved, the proposal is not expected to give rise to any adverse noise or odour impact to the amenity of residential properties.”

They found too that the ‘principle of development’ is “acceptable.

The planning report concludes: “Tandragee Free Presbyterian Church already serves a local population, both in the rural area and settlement. The Bible Training College is in connection with this, and specifically for the younger

“In addition, the garage is for the proposes of training students basic motor mechanic skills on minibuses. This is to prepare them for missionary work overseas and, as such, officers are content that it is deemed to be a necessary community facility to serve the local rural population.”

The recommendation to approve has been accepted and planning approval is now being conferred, via letter, to the applicant.

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