Planning approval granted for co-religious school campus in Northern Ireland

Friday 03 May 2013 22.16
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region's past
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region's past

Northern Ireland's first shared education campus for Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren has been granted planning approval.

Up to six schools with 3,700 pupils are expected to be based at a former army barracks in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The army barracks is to be transformed into a 126-acre development to educate the next generation together.

Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson has led calls for an end to the "apartheid" of pupils being taught separately according to their religion.

SDLP Planning Minister Alex Attwood said: "The new campus will be at the forefront of shared education in Omagh and the North."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said renewed efforts should be made to tackle sectarianism which has characterised much of the region's past.

The Stormont Executive is still considering a cohesion, sharing and integration strategy.

Schools in the North are already collaborating on a range of subjects, encouraged by a mechanism known as area-based planning aimed at making services more efficient.

More than 92% of children attend either Catholic schools or schools that are mainly attended by Protestant pupils.

Many young people travel to schools based on their religion.

The £100m (€118m) redevelopment of the former Lisanelly and St Lucia barracks on the River Strule, will be the first time schools have shared the same site.

Mr Attwood recommended planning approval to the local council today for a development containing up to six schools.

Included in the proposal is a new special needs centre, sports pitches and car parking.

Schools mentioned in planning documents include Christian Brothers Grammar School, Loreto Grammar, Omagh High, Omagh Academy and Sacred Heart College.

Mr Attwood said: "This is a huge redevelopment scheme which will benefit all of Omagh and the surrounding areas for many years.

"It will create much-needed employment during the development of the site and the construction of the new buildings, and become a model for education for the future." He said.

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