£36m plans for Cookstown school

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Ambitious plans to build a £36million school campus in Cookstown are finally edging closer to reality after years of intense lobbying and frustrating delays.

Proposals to replace the existing Holy Trinity College, which has been in need of new facilities for at least two decades, with a state-of-the-art new development have been dogged with setbacks after plans were temporarily mothballed in 2010 due to severe budgetary constraints on the Department of Education.

At the time, Education Minister Catriona Ruane said the new school might win approval after more work on its plans.

However, there was no guarantee it would be built because she said there was not enough money.

Three years later, after intense lobbying, Ruane’s replacement as Education Minister, John O’Dowd announced that the new school would be built as one of 22 new build projects in a £220 million investment across the province.

He said the projects were aimed at either addressing “serious or substandard accommodation inadequacies”, or at effecting agreed rationalisation of the schools estate.

Work was hoped to begin on the co-educational 1,300 pupil all-ability school in 2014.

Now the latest Education Minister, Peter Weir, has said that his department has submitted a new business plan to the Department of Finance.

“Initial work to progress the project was delayed due to the submission of a Development Proposal to increase the school’s enrolment to 13000 pupils in 2015”, said the minister.

“A business case has recently been approved by the Department for the new post-primary school with estimated costs of £36m. This is currently with the Department of Finance for consideration”, he said.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone, who has been campaigning for a new school for the past twenty years has raised the issue several times at the Northern Ireland Assembly. He warned that the existing building was ‘totally unacceptable’.