Northern Ireland

£33m Craigavon college site opposed by park users

The new college would sit on the edge of the lake Image copyright SRC
Image caption The new college would sit on the edge of the lake

A group campaigning against the site of a new £33m college in a council park say those behind the plan just want "pretty pictures" for a prospectus.

If approved by planners the new Southern Regional College will be based along the edge of the south lake in Craigavon.

Opponents say they want the college, but not on the proposed site.

Those behind the plan say they looked at alternatives, but the chosen location was the most appropriate.

Image caption Twelve acres of the park has been sold for potential development

"I think they want to look out their windows and look at this view," said Kelly Laverty, of Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes.

She said the park should be developed as an outdoor amenity and other development sites were available nearby.

The land is zoned for tourism and recreational use.

Image copyright SRC
Image caption About 2,000 full time students will attend the college each year

But planners have already said this does not necessarily rule out other types of development.

The new college would see the merger of the Lurgan and Portadown campuses on a single site.

It would take up about 12 acres of land owned by Armagh Craigavon and Banbridge Council beside the lake.

It has been sold subject to planning approval.

Image caption There have been protests at the council decision to sell the land

The college's chief executive, Brian Doran, said the site was picked because it was central, neutral and within easy reach of public transport.

"It would, I hope, inspire future generations of learners," he said. "Why wouldn't we build a college in such a beautiful setting?"

The area is currently a public park with cycle and footpaths.

The college says none of those will be removed if a new low-rise college is built.

Image caption Park users say they like the tranquillity of the site

But some locals who use the park regularly say the college would have a negative impact.

They say the tranquillity of the park will be lost when up to 2,000 full-time students attend the college each year.

They add that trees will be cut down as part of the development.

The college has plans for five acres of new habitat to compensate for the construction.

There have been protests at the council against the sale of the land.

It says the area is a "priority" for it and a balance must be struck so the "entire community can benefit".

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