Start now imminent for new Down High School

Start now imminent for new Down High School

11 April 2018

DOWN High School’s new multi-million pound campus may soon be underway.

Education officials have confirmed that the acquisition of land for “the major capital investment project is now complete”, meaning construction can finally begin.

The acquisition of land at the rear of Down Council’s former Strangford Road headquarters in Downpatrick was considered the last stumbling block in the way of the school’s long-awaited redevelopment, which was first given the green light almost 10 years ago.

The Department of Education first listed the scheme as a priority in 2009 due to substandard accommodation and an over-reliance on temporary classrooms at the school’s current Mount Crescent site.

At that time, officials also accepted the need to purchase the Strangford Road site to allow the construction of a new campus, which will include three new sports pitches and tennis courts.

Plans for the new build were rushed through that year by the Department of Environment, which processed the application in under six months in a pledge to “move forward plans to provide a modern, spacious accommodation conducive to delivering a high standard of education to children”.

Despite that outline approval, there have been extensive delays over full permission due to the sensitivities of the site, which is in an area of outstanding natural beauty and includes a workhouse graveyard.

As a result of these sensitivities, detailed plans for the new campus were delayed until last summer with the hope that workers could be on site by February past.

Confirmation that the land has now been purchased means the new school remains on target for completion by September 2020, as recently confirmed by school principal Mrs Maud Perry.

Mrs Perry said there was “growing sense of anticipation” within the school around the development.

A specialist design team is now understood to be working on the final details of the planning proposal, which will include access from both Strangford Road and Quoile Road.

Improvements will also be carried out to the junction of Quoile Road and Old Belfast Road and the junction of Belfast Road and New Bridge Street to facilitate access by school bus and car.

Confirming the land acquisition, a Departmental spokeswoman this week said: “A planning application for the project was submitted in June 2017.  The project is currently moving through the various design stages.”