A computer generated image of the new St Ronan's building.
Hopes of a new school building for St Ronan’s College opening by 2023 have been dealt a hammer blow after the procurement process to appoint a contractor was withdrawn, Your Lurgan can exclusively reveal.
The Department of Education, which said the decision was due to “the current market uncertainties and following legal advice”, has told this website that a new procurement process will get underway.
News of the withdrawal has been met with devastation by SDLP MLA for Upper Bann, Dolores Kelly.
The works, which had already got underway, is the single biggest school project being supported by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland this year.
The £30million school on the Cornakinnegar Road will accommodate 1,750 pupils when it is built.
Demolition work has already taken place on the site.
St Ronan’s College was formed in 2015 following the merger of St Paul’s Junior High School, St Mary’s High School and St Michael’s Grammar School. Since then the school has been planning for a single campus state-of-the-art school.
But today a spokesperson for the Department of Education told Your Lurgan said: “Due to the current market uncertainties and following legal advice, the procurement process to appoint an Integrated Supply Team for St Ronan’s College, Lurgan has been withdrawn and a new procurement process will be taken forward.
“While this is disappointing news for everyone concerned, the Department is taking all necessary steps to commence a fresh competition as soon as possible.”
Mrs Kelly, has been lobbying since 2014 for the new build, said the announcement was “devastating news for the community”.
She said, “I was under the impression that construction work would begin at the end of the summer, and when that didn’t happen I began asking questions of the Department.
“This morning I got an answer to my question that the Department couldn’t or wouldn’t meet the costs for the project outside the £30m allocated.
“It’s absolutely devastating for the local community, and for the teachers, staff and pupils who would have been looking forward to getting into their new building.
“The staff certainly deserve praise for how they have established the school both in the classroom and on the sporting field.”
Mrs Kelly added that she had raised the matter with her party colleague, SDLP education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan, adding that the matter was of great concern.
“It’s St Ronan’s today but it could be St Louis in Kilkeel tomorrow,” she stated.
St Ronan’s College has been contacted for comment.