A new chance to make it happen for Magee

The Magee campus of the University of Ulster.
The Magee campus of the University of Ulster.

F or some time now we have been tracking the failure properly to develop Magee College and the role of the University of Ulster management in relation to what’s happening, or rather not happening.

I see that some people have now been persuaded or stirred or shamed into action. And some mainstream political representatives seem to have woken up too.

There seems to be a consensus that it’s all too little, too late, that the die is cast and that planned development in Belfast rules out significant expansion here.

But now comes news that while the Belfast project may be signed and sealed, it’s not inevitable it will be delivered.

The University intends to sell off 102 of its 170 acres at Jordanstown to private developers for an “urban village” of 600 houses, shops and “community units”.

It’s envisaged that profits from this deal will help fund the £250 million Belfast campus, planned to open in 2018.

However, at the July meeting of Newtownabbey Council’s Planning Committee, chairman Tom Campbell of the Alliance Party, representing the Jordanstown area, branded the urban village plan “utterly unacceptable”.

There had been no proper consultation, he claimed.

The scale of the development was out of all proportion to what residents had led to expect. The pressure on local services, especially on schools, would be intolerable.

Campbell wants the project looked at again, under article 31 of the Planning Service’s code.

This would potentially put the final decision into the hands of the Environment Minister.

My own feeling is that, in the end, money will talk louder than local residents’ concerns.

But, even at this stage, Magee should be in like flint at any sign of growing doubt about the viability or scale of the Belfast project, demanding re-distribution of the six faculties being shifted out of Jordanstown.

Why shouldn’t art design or the business school or social sciences come to Derry?

Again in my view, put this to the head honchos at Magee and you’ll be told it’s too late and simply impractical.

This is the sort of thinking that has gotten us where we are today. If there was a will, we’d have a chance at least of finding a way.

And you never do know. If the fate of the Belfast project were to come to reside with the Environment Minister, the decision would land on the desk of the new man in the Department.

Step forward, Mark H. Durkan, your hour has come round at last. Maybe.