The long-awaited £33m new school can now be built on the site of the Foyle College Junior School lands on Northland Road.
Derry & Strabane’s Planning Committee were informed today that during the processing of the application the original Foyle College buildings were damaged in an arson attack in July 2018 and were so badly destroyed in the fire that they were demolished by the Department of Education/ Foyle College before the Education Authority purchased the site.
Members heard how the new school aims to provide teaching and learning in a “dynamic and exciting educational environment” with the primary objective to provide suitable education facilities to meet the curricular needs of 340 pupils with Profound, Moderate and Severe Learning Difficulties aged 3-19 living in the area currently served by Ardnashee School and College.
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It is also intended to improve the standard of accommodation to enhance the quality of learning; flexibility for further expansion or increase in the number of pupils beyond the estimated long-term enrolment; and will help improve staff and pupil morale.
Planning officials in their report outlined how the application was of good design and positive place-making and the development proposals would make a positive contribution to townscape and be sensitive to the character of the surrounding area in terms of design, scale and use of materials.
Details of the proposal were also outlined at the meeting to advise that the proposed school building is single storey, designed in line with the applicant’s requirements, and while the footprint of the school will be larger than the footprint of the previous school buildings which occupied the site, this was deemed necessary to accommodate all facilities in a single storey building. It will include two wings, providing accommodation for nursery, primary, post primary and specialist subjects, such as art, music and drama. The main entrance is located on the north eastern side of the building facing onto Northland Road while the sports hall, fitness suite and hydrotherapy suite are also located to the front of the building. Pupils can congregate in the sports hall at drop off and pick up times. An access lobby is provided to the sports hall, which also facilitates out-of-hours access to both halls and the hydrotherapy pool and the lobby has been designed to accommodate the future provision of a climbing wall.
Nursery accommodation has a dedicated separate entrance, also along the front elevation facing Northland Road, and is located at the end of the primary wing. Post 16 accommodation is located in a dedicated annex to the rear of the secondary wing, at the rear of the building while a semi enclosed hard landscaped area has been provided adjacent to the music and drama suite and can accommodate external performances and a greenhouse and greenhouse store are located adjacent to Science and Home Economics classroom external space.
Planning officials recommending an approval of the application, described the proposed design as contemporary and of high quality and in accordance with the Derry Area Plan.
Members of the committee voted in favour of the planning officers’ recommendation to approve the application, subject to a number of conditions relating to the timeframe of delivery of the project, and the introduction of a number of interventions in relation to road safety measures and also relating to the protection of the environment and biodiversity.
The Planning Committee Chairperson Colr Christopher Jackson welcomed the decision saying the news would be warmly received by everyone associated with Ardanshee school. He said this was a very positive story for the city and the provision of enhanced and state of the art education facilities for all abilities. He also welcomed the fact that the site would be redeveloped having been lying vacant for a long period of time.