Old Thornhill site: ‘We’re constantly boarding up the old buildings’, say new owners

The new owners of the former Thornhill College site in Derry say they are “constantly” appointing contractors to board up derelict buildings at what’s become a vandalism hotspot.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 10:05 am
Derelict buildings on the old Thornhill College site Culmore Road that has been vacant since 2004. DER2125GS - 014
Derelict buildings on the old Thornhill College site Culmore Road that has been vacant since 2004. DER2125GS - 014

Urban Pulse - a Glasgow headquartered firm with a diverse property portfolio - has, for the past five years, been pursuing plans for an independent living village for the over-55 population at the riverfront location on the outskirts of the city.

The £22m. “West Shore” project will, says Urban Pulse, incorporate “luxurious accommodation, contemporary amenity spaces and an expanse of external communal areas”.

The company says it currently does not have full planning consent to allow it to proceed with works on the site.

Derelict buildings on the old Thornhill College site Culmore Road that has been vacant since 2004. DER2125GS - 009

“We are presently waiting on our application to be determined by [Derry City & Strabane] Council which will allow us to proceed as soon as planning permission is granted,” added a spokesperson.

In recent times, particularly in the last few weeks, the former school site has been plagued by arson attacks.

Earlier this week, 30 firefighters - operating four pumping appliances and two aerial appliances, one from Belfast, were called to a blaze in one of the derelict buildings. It’s understood a specialist hazardous material officer was also deployed due to the potential presence of asbestos.

One local community group has branded the site a “no man’s land” and says it should be fenced off before someone is seriously hurt.

Derelict buildings on the old Thornhill College site Culmore Road that has been vacant since 2004. DER2125GS - 011

Urban Pulse says it is “acutely aware” of the “persistent vandalising, stealing and carrying out of arson attacks” on the site and its buildings.

“We are constantly appointing contractors to board up the buildings - sometimes a few times each week,” its spokesperson added. “We have been engaging on a very regular basis with local politicians, the PSNI and other authorities. We are hopeful that the Council will be in a position to make a positive determination on our planning application soon so we can get to work on the redevelopment of this site.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Derry & Strabane Council says it is currently processing a “Reserved Matters” application which was received in September 2020.

This Reserved Matters application was submitted following approval by Council, in January 2019, of an outline application and a Section 76 legal agreement for the development of a residential retirement complex at the riverfront location.

The spokesperson added: “On receipt of the Reserved Matters application, the Council consulted with a number of statutory consultees and further information and amended plans were requested from the agent/applicant. Further information and plans were submitted by the agent in May 2021 and further consultation has been carried out.

“A response from DFI Roads is outstanding but is due to be received shortly. The agent has also advised that further visual analysis drawings will be submitted to Council shortly. Once all outstanding information and consultation responses have been received, the application will be progressed to Council’s Planning Committee for decision at the earliest opportunity.”