Planning approval for new £19m integrated school building in Carrickfergus

Ulidia Integrated College has been given the go-ahead for a new £19m three-storey school in Carrickfergus.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 6:38 pm

The building proposal was approved at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday.

The new building, at the school’s existing site at Victoria Road, will accommodate 700 pupils and will consist of 43 classrooms in a 10,314sq metre premises.

It is expected the building will be constructed over two phases – the new school and pitch, followed by the demolition of the existing building and completion of site works.

An image of the new Ulida building
An image of the new Ulida building

The school has been situated at its current location since 2002 following a move from temporary accommodation in Whitehead when it first opened in 1997 with just 63 pupils. Ulidia now has more than 500 pupils enrolled.

The proposal will also include a larger parking and drop off/pick up zone as well as a 3G pitch, basketball court and enclosed grass pitch and hard-surfaced play areas.

The committee was told that DfI Roads had noted an objection “in relation to the current traffic problems but felt the existing problems would be alleviated by the proposed scheme”.

Speaking at the meeting, Carrickfergus DUP Councillor John McDermott  said that when he has been canvassing in the area, one of the main issues raised is parking “specifically when schools are going in and out”.

“This school is long-awaited. It is a brilliant plan. However, there are two schools here.”

Acorn Integrated Primary School is also located on the site.

“The carpark for both is an absolute nightmare. It is the first complaint you get from local residents that they can’t get into their own estate at these particular times,” Cllr McDermott stated.

Principal Planning officer Gary McGuinness said that there is an area to be designated specifically for buses and another for cars and there will be a drop off and pick up area.

“If you are going to increase from 585 to 700 pupils that is going to bring an increase in vehicular traffic into that spot”, Cllr McDermott continued.

The officer said that traffic is “an issue at every school”.

“This is a social issue. Parents are driving their children to school in ever increasing numbers. You can’t plan and engineer a way out of this problem.”

Cllr McDermott added: “An increase in traffic also poses a risk of accidents to children.”

He proceeded to ask for the application to be deferred for a month for officials to look at it again.

Mr McGuinness said that additional provision has been made for traffic with a drop -off area extended in an attempt to alleviate difficulty.

Knockagh Alderman Noel Williams welcomed the planned improved parking facility for which he said there was just one objection. He also noted that DfI Roads is “content” with the proposal.

“I have no doubt it will alleviate the problems,” he said.

Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid commented: “I know it is a problem when it comes to any school. It is an opportunity to make sure we get the parking right.”

Mr McGuinness replied: “We have consulted with Transport NI throughout the process. They have said it is acceptable.”

Coast Road Sinn Fein CouncillorJames McKeown commented that there had been concerns over excess traffic in Larne’s Seacourt estate when Corran Integrated Primary was being built at its new location but he reported that it has “worked out very well”.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan said: “I would be very happy to second the proposal. This particular school is over-subscribed and it is really needed.”

Committee chair Alderman Audrey Wales noted: “Every school in a built-up area has exactly the same problems.”

Commenting on the decision after the meeting, Ald Williams said: “Parking facilities will be hugely improved and will go a long way to alleviate some of the traffic issues that affect the residents of Victoria Rise, which is adjacent to the two integrated schools in the area, namely Ulidia and Acorn schools.

“I am convinced that the plans are well thought out and will be a considerable asset to traffic management. It was also pleasing to note that the Dept of Infrastructure (Roads), a statutory consultee in the planning process, also had no objections relating to traffic capacity or the local infrastructure”.

“Ulidia College is a remarkable high achieving school, which has proved that integrated education is wholly workable. The time is right to enhance the capacity of the oversubscribed Ulidia College from 585 to 700 students.

“I look forward to witnessing this magnificent structure come to fruition over the not-too-distant future, and congratulate the board of governors for their foresight and commitment to an educational philosophy that is perfect for Northern Ireland.”

Ulidia principal Michael Houston has said previously: “The new 700 pupil school will cater for our current number of pupils, and, whilst it does not increase the size of the school, it will provide much needed state-of-the-art facilities for all of our pupils and staff. ” Click here

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter