Ulster University has mothballed its plan for a peaceline campus in west Belfast, blaming the lack of Government support. The university council has put on hold its three-year-old Springvale initiative to regenerate north and west Belfast.
Vice chancellor Sir Trevor Smith said the Government had "yo-yoed", with decisions having allegedly been imminent several times over the past year. "I can see no reason why Government has been dragging its feet," he said. He added that there were strong parallels with the University of the Highlands and Islands project which has won Scottish Office and Millennium Fund support.
Ulster has not sought a specific sum from the Northern Ireland Office, but Sir Trevor said Springvale's estimated costs were around Pounds 65 million. Some Pounds 30 million had been already earmarked from non-government sources, and there had been optimism about a bid to the Millennium Commission.
The scheme has been welcomed both locally and abroad, with United States vice president Al Gore describing it as "a powerful new force promoting cross-community harmony".
Joe Hendron, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP for West Belfast, this week said Springvale was a "magnificent concept" from an educational, social and economic point of view. The blame for the scheme's deferment lay squarely with the Northern Ireland Office, he said. He and Cecil Walker, Unionist MP for North Belfast, are seeking urgent meetings with ministers in a bid to resuscitate the proposals.
An NIO spokesman said: "We commissioned consultants to look at the viability of the Springvale proposals. Their report is very complex. We had hoped that decisions would have been reached by now, but we want to get it right rather than rush to some conclusion that is irrevocable."