Planning Permission has been approved for £50m state-of-the-art Ballycastle Shared Education Campus by Causeway Coast and Glens Planning Committee.
The news has been widely welcomed with Paul McClean, principal of Cross and Passion College describing it as “wonderful opportunity” and Ian Williamson, Principal of Ballycastle High School calling it a “unique opportunity to realise significant benefits”.
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said; “This scheme marks a new era for Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College.”
On completion, the campus will host around 1,200 pupils spread across the two current sites on either side of Moyle Road in the town.
The main school buildings will be located on the Ballycastle High School side along with a sports hall, courts, hockey pitch plus car and bus parking.
On the Cross and Passion side, there will be GAA/football pitches, courts, car parking and a sports pavilion.
The Shared Education Campuses programme was launched in January 2014 under the Stormont executive’s Together: Building a United Community initiative and money for new buildings was secured under the Fresh Start Agreement.
Planning permission was granted for the demolition of existing buildings and construction of a new shared school building, sports buildings, greenhouse building and sports pitches on the site of the existing Ballycastle High School.
The application included demolition of existing buildings and construction of sports pavilion, youth storage and ground maintenance building and sports pitches on the site of the existing Cross & Passion College.
Mr Roland Carson, speaking on behalf of the residents to Rathlin Road and Rathlin Court, in objection to the application, described it as “completely at odds with the residential area”.
Phillip McGuigan MLA, who also spoke on behalf of constituency colleague Mervyn Storey MLA, in favour of the project said: “It is an investment in the children from Ballycastle and the wider north Antrim towns and villages. It is a significant investment into this council area which will provide jobs and support to local companies during the building phase.”
Following the unanimous approval of the application, Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “I am pleased that planning permission has been granted for this unique project, which represents a huge investment of £50million of Fresh Start funding.
“This scheme marks a new era for Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College, providing a brand new shared campus and top-quality sports facilities.
“These two schools have a long and successful history of sharing and working together, for the benefit of their pupils and staff. While both schools will continue to retain their own individual identities and ethos within the new campus, the state-of-the-art accommodation will allow them to further improve their already close relationship.”
Ian Williamson, principal of Ballycastle High School, said: “The school community can look forward to modern educational facilities which will benefit the pupils of both schools and the wider Ballycastle community.
“It is testament to the vision and dedication of our predecessors that we have reached this significant stage. We will gain much from our sharing arrangement with Cross and Passion College and build on the rich heritage of Ballycastle High School.
“What has been achieved in Ballycastle is a unique opportunity to realise significant benefits for the young people of this area.
“This is being achieved in a school campus arrangement which safeguards the individual integrity, ethos and identity of both schools but maximises the opportunities of sharing in that context. These curricular and extra-curricular opportunities will add significant value to the experience of our pupils and the wider community.”
Cross and Passion College principal Paul McClean added: “I am delighted that planning permission has been granted for this wonderful opportunity for the young people, and the wider community, in north Antrim.
“Each year the two schools welcome visitors from across the world, keen to gain insight into how Ballycastle High School and Cross and Passion College provide unique experiences in their own rights, but also enhance their provision through sharing pupil learning and staff development opportunities, via their close working relationship.
“For many years, the pupils of this school have enjoyed outstanding academic success, notable extracurricular experiences, and been shaped in the core values of the Cross and Passion order. All of these characteristics are retained and further developed, by working in partnership with Ballycastle High School.
“This investment protects the history, as well as the futures, of both schools and I am excited for our school community, as well as our partners in Ballycastle High, as we reach this significant milestone in the project.”