Call to put St Comgall’s facilities to good purpose

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a CALL has been made for the former St Comgall’s College buildings to be put to good use for the benefit of the whole Larne community.

With the Bankhead Lane site now lying vacant, local concerns are rising that the premises might be demolished without full consideration being given as to how they could be better used.

Local man Hugh Giffen has been actively pursuing the issue, contacting the Department of Education, the Education Minister and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.

“As a longtime resident of Larne, I believe that every effort should be made to reuse the buildings and facilities at this site and not allow it to fall into dereliction and then be demolished - as has happened to many other schools in the borough,” he said.

Mr Giffen said he remembered St Comgall’s being built in the late 1950s and that, as he recalled, as a voluntary Catholic secondary school, was eligible for a hefty grant from the then Stormont Department of Education.

“In more recent years, 100 per cent of all maintenance and running costs were paid for by the Department.

“Therefore, it is in the interests of us all as taxpayers what happens to the site and school buildings,” he said.

“I believe it would be a crying shame if St Comgall’s was simply demolished. We are - as the Government keeps reminding us - living in a time of austerity, no existing education and community facilities should not be lightly discarded,” Mr Giffen said.

“Over the years many outside bodies have used the facilities at St Comgall’s, including the excellent gymnasium, after hours.

“As a Larne man, I would hope that everybody would still be able to use these facilities - which we helped pay for. A model already exists to show how school buildings can be used to their maximum capacity outside of formal education - Ballee Community High School, near Ballymena.

“At the same time, I was intrigued by a statement by the Minister for Education which he made at Stormont just a few weeks ago. He said: ‘It is clear that we simply do not have the resources to look to a new build solution on every occasion. We need to look more at the existing estate for innovative solutions’.

“Is there an opportunity for other schools in the borough which have perhaps outgrown their existing accommodation to be relocated to the Bankhead site? Surely this is exactly the sort of ‘innovative solution’ which is being called for?” he said.

Have you any views on the former St Comgall’s school site? Write to: Letters to the Editor, Larne Times, 8 Dunluce Street, Larne, BT40 1JG or email news@larnetimes.co.uk