£10m teaching block subject to internal review

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey. (2307C39a)
Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey. (2307C39a)

The top civil servant at the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has said that a proposed £10m teaching block at Magee is still being internally reviewed.

Billy Lyttle, head of higher education (HE) finance, said correspondence between DEL and the University of Ulster is ongoing in a bid to progress the project.

SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey said it was “disappointing” that further progress hasn’t been made to date.

Last March it was reported how DEL expected the University of Ulster to put forward a proposed new £10m teaching block at Magee in either 2015/16 or 2016/17.

In a recent exchange at the Employment and Learning Committee at Stormont, Mr Ramsey said: “You were encouraging me when you looked at me earlier on, so I am going to ask you about the teaching block at Magee. Where is it at present?”

Mr Lyttle replied: “The position with the Magee teaching block is that the economic appraisal is still being reviewed internally. We are moving towards getting approval for that, but we are not there yet.

“It is constantly going back between us and university officials to get it into a shape that we feel we can approve. Once we get that, we will push it up the line.”

Mr Ramsey said: “It is disappointing to hear that, because I know that the Minister has approved the planning permission for that site. You talk about shelf-ready projects; this is shelf ready and the planning is there. So, I encourage you to try to accelerate the process so that we do not miss out on any possibility of capital moneys, and I understand that those capital moneys may not be coming directly from the DEL budget but from an external source.”

Last March a DEL spokesperson said: “The Department would anticipate that the University of Ulster will put forward the new teaching block at Magee for consideration for capital funding in either 2015/16 or in the next comprehensive spending review period commending in 2016/17.”

The University said: “The Magee teaching block plan is a part of the approved estates strategy for the University, and will form part of our normal capital funding request as part of the next CSR period which runs from 2016-2020.”