Future of peaceline campus in doubt

February 7, 2003

The Northern Ireland Audit Office is to conduct an investigation into the potential collapse of Northern Ireland's much-vaunted "peaceline" campus.

The future of the Springvale campus, with its educational village model, is in doubt after a consultants' report revealed that plans contained major flaws.

The province's comptroller and auditor-general, John Dowdall, has promised a preliminary inquiry that will include an examination of public money spent on consultation and feasibility studies.

The announcement follows pressure from Sinn Fein, whose president Gerry Adams is MP for West Belfast, where the campus for some 4,500 students would be based. It was touted as symbolising the new future for Ulster in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, with backing from prime minister Tony Blair and former US president Bill Clinton.

The venture, involving the University of Ulster and the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, has been planned for almost ten years. But the consultants' report concludes that there are problems of "affordability and viability" with the business plan.

The province's Department of Employment and Learning asked for the plan to be reworked.

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, who was deputy chair of the suspended assembly's public accounts committee, said it seemed as if those involved were "seeking a way out".

The government had pledged £40 million towards the project.

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