Planning approval for new Irish medium school in Glengormley

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors granted permission for a new Gaelscoil building outside Glengormley at a meeting of the borough council’s planning committee on Monday evening.
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A new-build Irish medium primary and nursery school has been proposed by Gaelscoil Eanna at Hightown Road which will be comprised of seven classrooms and nursery unit south of St Enda’s Gaelic Athletic Club’s pitch and sports hall. Access will be provided at Hightown Road.

A report to the committee says: “The proposal consists of two single storey buildings, that being the primary school and the nursery school. The primary school accommodates seven classrooms, a playroom, a multi-purpose hall, library, ancillary changing and sanitary facilities as well as other storage and ancillary spaces (administration and office spaces, resource areas, school meals accommodation areas, multi-purpose rooms, plant areas, and general circulation space).

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“The multi-purpose hall is accessible from the public area to allow it to be used after school hours for community events. The proposed nursery unit is provided in a separate building, adjacent and to the south of the main primary school building. It comprises a main playroom and quiet room, with several additional ancillary rooms, including: staff room, student and staff toilets, internal and external storage areas, utility kitchen, and general circulation space.”

An artist’s impression of the new Gaelscoil Eanna in Glengormley. Pic: Gaelscoil Eanna.An artist’s impression of the new Gaelscoil Eanna in Glengormley. Pic: Gaelscoil Eanna.
An artist’s impression of the new Gaelscoil Eanna in Glengormley. Pic: Gaelscoil Eanna.

Speaking at the meeting, Barry Diamond, the council’s principal planning officer, said the proposal is a replacement of an existing school facility which is immediately adjacent to the application site so the principle of the new school and nursery school is “considered acceptable”. He noted the “restricted nature” of the existing school facilities.

Mr Diamond went on to say the replacement school is required to “provide adequate facilities” required for “current educational standards”.

Community Support

Gaelscoil Eanna opened in September 2007. Planning agent Michael Graham stated: “It is a replacement school in the countryside. There were no third party objections. The community is in support.”

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Glengormley DUP Councillor Alison Bennington noted planning policies which she said “set out boundaries where to build and to not build”. “This application sits outside that,” she remarked.

Cllr Bennington asked why the application was recommended for approval when it “sits outside three policies”. “It is not within our local development plan. It is not in line with principles laid out in these policies,” she said.

She also queried why the proposal could not be within land of the current school or GAA club.

Mr Diamond explained: “There is not a policy that deals directly with new school buildings. It is an amalgamation of policy used to make an assessment of possible construction works.

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"This is a replacement school. It does not propose any intensification. It is adjacent to an existing school in the countryside. The new school would be immediately adjacent to it. As it is a replacement facility, there is no requirement to provide a need to be in the countryside as they are already in the countryside.”

He went on say in this case, the location is where the school has grown and where it “derives its population from”. “School facilities do not sit within any policy. Because this is an off-site replacement serving the catchment population, it is considered appropriate to this location,” he continued.

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Cllr Bennington commented: “We have been following those policies. Now we are stepping outside for this.”

Mr Diamond replied: “Every planning application has to be looked at on its merits.” He said he accepted it is outside the development limit but it “could not be treated as if it is proposing a brand new countryside location”.

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Macedon Alliance Cllr Billy Webb MBE moved the recommendation to grant planning permission, seconded by Airport Sinn Fein Cllr Annemarie Logue.

The application was approved following a vote with eight councillors in favour and DUP councillors Bennington and Jeannie Archibald-Brown, a Ballyclare representative, against.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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