Shimna College £16m work gets green light

Shimna College £16m work gets green light

31 March 2021

WORK is to start on Shimna Integrated College’s new £16m campus in the autumn.

Local planners have given the green light for the construction of the new 620-student school in Newcastle and 

it is hoped that building work will be completed in 2024.

The modern new three-storey school will be constructed to the east of the current main building at its sprawling Lawnfield site at King Street which will eventually be bulldozed.

Included in the ambitious development plan are a range of new sports facilities which we will be shared with the Newcastle community. 

The new school proposal is being supported by the Department for Education and Integrated Education Fund with principal, Kevin Lambe, delighted that formal planning approval will be rubber-stamped by local councillors next week.

Mr Lambe says the entire Shimna community is delighted that planning permission will go ahead for “our wonderful new building.”

He said everyone was “extremely excited” that work on the new school will begin in the autumn term and that the new Year 8 students joining Shimna this September will be able to look forward to sitting their GCSEs and A levels in a purpose built, state-of-the art building. 

“Of course, we have always been very proud of our current, semi-permanent building, which was begun in 1994 — financed by parents on a bank loan — and which has grown with us through 27 years,” Mr Lambe continued.

“It will, in many ways, be a sad day to see that building come down. However, important though excellent facilities are, the core of a school is the student, staff, parent and governor body and they deserve a new building to match the commitment, enthusiasm and of course the Integrated ethos which drives this school.”

Mr Lambe thanked the Department of Education and the technical team behind the new school for the energy and creativity they have brought to the project.

He also extended gratitude to Newry, Mourne and Down Council for addressing the school’s application for planning permission. 

Mr Lambe added: “We are particularly excited that the sports facilities for the new school will be shared with our local community and all the community partners who already meet in Shimna.”

Shimna College currently shares its sports halls, grounds and main building with a number of local groups and in 2019 celebrated its 25th anniversary with its need for new accommodation one of a number of projects earmarked for financial support in the Fresh Start Agreement.

The hugely successful integrated college opened in September 1995 with just 60 pupils, but has since grown to become of Northern Ireland’s leading schools. 

However, the current school does not meet its needs or the standards specified in the current Department of Education Secondary School handbook.

In February 2014, education officials approved a development proposal to redevelop the integrated college to deliver a modern, post-primary school capable of accommodating the increased demand for integrated education in the area.

The planning papers due to be formally approved next week outline a proposal to build ultra-modern accommodation to the east of the current school, with new sports accommodation extending to the west, encompassing part of the footprint of the existing school.

A new single storey sports suite will extend from the school’s northwestern elevation of the new buildings and includes a hall, gym, fitness area and ancillary accommodation with the main school building intentionally designed to allow Shimna College to continue operating during construction work on the new-build.

It is understood that phase one will focus on the construction of the main school building, excluding the proposed new sports provision. All of the existing school will be bulldozed when the new-build is complete, apart from the existing sports hall.

It is believed that this part of the current post-primary building will only be razed to the ground when work on the new sports facilities have been completed.