Assurance given over Banbridge campus

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Chief Executive of the Southern Regional College, Mr Brian Doran, has given a reassurance that concerns over lost funding and delays for some projects will not impact on the delivery of the Banbridge campus new build.

Local MLA, Jo-Anne Dobson, had called on the Employment Minister to urgently clarify the funding and timescale for the building of the new Craigavon campus for the Southern Regional College amid concerns that money earmarked for it was unspent and surrendered by the Department of Employment and Learning, in the November monitoring process.

Mr Doran said: “Southern Regional College appointed an integrated design team in August 2015 to take forward its new build estates projects in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon. All three projects are progressing through the detailed design and statutory approval process.

“Current discussions with regard to an extension to the Together – Building a United Community funding does not impact on the delivery of the Banbridge new build.

“Southern Regional College remains committed to ensuring its new build projects are delivered and is fully supported by the Department for Employment and Learning in seeking to make this a reality.”

Speaking of the Craigavon campus Mrs Dobson said: “The estimated start date for construction has been moved back to August 2017 at the earliest, and only £400,000 will be spent in this financial year on the project to be built on the recently selected site near the Civic Centre and Rushmere Shopping Centre.

“What is even more worrying is that the Employment and Learning Committee have been told by officials that the Department of Finance and Personnel instructed them to use £5m of money earmarked for T:BUC (Together, Building a United Community) to get this project started. This was instead of using some of the £22.5M of borrowing which was earmarked for the project.

“That was originally announced on 4 July 2013 after the G8 summit as part of the UK Government and NI Executive’s joint economic pact, ‘Building a Prosperous and United Community’.

“If £4.6M of this T:BUC money has been unspent this financial year we need to know urgently if this money now been lost to the Treasury.

“This remains unclear, but what is certain is that unnecessary delay and the potential for increased costs have been introduced to this project.

“The Craigavon area needs and deserves a new facility.

“This smacks of financial mismanagement by the Stormont Executive.”