Northern Ireland

Craigavon park dispute: Protest over college plan

The new college would sit on the edge of the lake Image copyright SRC
Image caption An image of the proposed £45m college which will be sited on the edge of the lake

A protest took place on Monday night against the approval of plans for a £45m college campus in a public park in Craigavon.

The proposal for the new Southern Regional College on the edge of the south lake was passed earlier this month.

Councillors on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council's planning committee approved the decision.

Campaigners are considering a judicial review.

They have have said the plan will mean 12 acres of the park will be developed.

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

Campaigners have argued alternative sites are available.

At the scene: BBC News NI reporter, Louise Cullen.

About 200 protesters gathered outside Craigavon Civic and Conference Centre, during a meeting of the full council on Monday night.

As the meeting got under way, they moved to the rear of the building, where they sang, whistled and chanted below the windows of the first floor council chamber.

Some protesters went in to sit in the public gallery for parts of the meeting, and one was escorted from the room when she tried to address councillors.

Planning approval by the council's Planning and Regulatory Service committee does not require full council ratification. And by the time the minutes of the planning committee were passed by the council without comment, shortly before 19:45 GMT, the protesters outside had fallen silent.

Image caption Protesters have argued alternative sites are available

Backers of the plan said they looked at other options but the lakeside location was the most appropriate.

It was chosen because it was central and neutral with good public transport links.

It will be close to the new £35m leisure centre, Craigavon Civic Centre and the Rushmere Shopping centre.

Opponents have said the campus plan will impact the tranquillity of the area with about 2,000 students a year in attendance.

They also said trees will have to be removed to facilitate the building work.

The Southern Regional College has plans for five acres of replacement habitat to compensate for the construction of the low-rise building.

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

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