Church stymies Ulster plans

April 16, 2004

The Catholic Church has scuppered Ulster University's plans to expand in Northern Ireland's second city, Londonderry, writes Noel McAdam.

UU had originally planned to set up a research centre on the site of the former Templemore Secondary School in Londonderry. But Jane Kennedy, the province's Direct Rule education minister, instead opted to build a new Catholic girls' secondary school proposed by the church on the site.

New plans by UU to set up the centre on the site of Foyle and Londonderry College (if the college secures a move to new premises) have met with a favourable response from the government.

The college is believed to be interested in a British army site at Clooney, which is being vacated and put up for community use as part of the government's demilitarisation plans. Once the move has been completed, the way could be clear for UU to construct its "centre of excellence" on the vacated site.

The government acknowledged for the first time that the university had had preliminary discussions with Foyle and Londonderry College and said it was content if they worked "on an agreement for the release of part of the college's grounds for the purposes of a research centre".

Tom Fraser, provost of UU's Derry Magee campus, said: "We look forward to an early resolution. Our existing campus is landlocked and we cannot develop detailed proposals for developments in teaching and learning, research and technology transfer and knowledge transfer activities until a suitable location is found."

UU's original plans had the backing of James Mehaffey, the local Church of Ireland bishop, who said it should be "close to the top of the list of priorities".

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