Priory Integrated College: New Build

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 14th March 2022.

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Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP 2:00 pm, 14th March 2022

3. Mr Chambers asked the Minister of Education for an update on the new build for Priory Integrated College, Holywood. (AQO 3246/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for the question. Priory Integrated College was announced as one of the major capital investment projects to advance to planning under the original Fresh Start announcement in March 2016. As Priory Integrated College is a controlled school, the project is being managed by the Education Authority. In common with all the Department of Education's major capital projects, the project follows the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) plan of work.

In February 2020, the Education Authority successfully completed the appointment of an integrated consultant team (ICT) to carry out the design of the proposed college. Following the completion of a technical feasibility study, a business case was produced, and that was approved by the Department of Finance in August 2020. It identified the preferred option as a new-build school at a site off the Old Holywood Road, close to Redburn Country Park. The new facilities will cater for the school's approved enrolment of 600 pupils. A brand-new handbook-compliant school building, along with indoor and outdoor sports facilities, will be provided.

The RIBA stage 2 concept design was approved by the Department in January 2022. The detailed design of the scheme — RIBA stage 3 — is ongoing, with the integrated consultant team working closely with the school to ensure that the design meets its needs. It is anticipated that a planning application will be submitted later this year.

Photo of Alan Chambers Alan Chambers UUP

I thank the Minister for that update. Does the Department have any concerns that the increase in buildings costs and potential shortage of materials could have a negative effect on its planned rebuild and refurb of education facilities across the sector?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

The Member raises a very important issue. The construction market has been affected by sustained increases in the cost of materials and uncertainty about the availability of materials. Significant cost increases were noted in early to mid 2021, and those continued throughout the rest of the year. While the rate of cost increases has now slowed, prices remain significantly higher than they were this time last year. As a result of the current conflict, we are in a very uncertain period for both the availability and cost of materials. Consequently, some projects now face costs that are significantly higher than those in the approved business case or, indeed, the tendered costs.

The Department of Finance introduced a procurement advice notice to provide a remedy for contractors who have been subject to significant and unforeseen cost increases. That has been applied to projects across the capital programme, where applicable. Going forward, a specific clause will be included in new contracts that will permit inflationary pressures to be taken into account. Business case addenda will continue to be prepared to take account of increased rates for materials during the life cycle of capital projects.

Photo of Stephen Dunne Stephen Dunne DUP

I thank the Minister for the positive update on the much-needed new building at Priory Integrated College for Holywood and the wider North Down area. Can he provide an update on other capital projects in the North Down constituency?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I can. In Sullivan Upper School, for example, there will be a new classroom block to replace temporary mobiles, a refurbishment of the art and design department and an extension/renovation of the 1938 extension at the main entrance. That is costing around £4 million. The scope of the project at Glencraig Integrated Primary School is yet to be confirmed, but a design team was appointed in August 2021, and a technical feasibility study is under way to scope the project. Some £3 million has been set aside for that project. A design team has been appointed for the project at the St Columbanus' College in Bangor. The RIBA stage 1 is with the Department for review. That will be an investment of around £4 million. The procurement of a design team for Kilcooley Primary School has commenced, and the project will be an investment of £4 million. The appointment of a design team for the project at Clifton School, Bangor, is due this month. Some £4 million will be spent at that facility.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I apologise because I think the Minister covered this in his original answer, but I could not hear. Will he confirm when a planning application is due to be submitted? Do any time pressures exist by which Fresh Start funding must be spent?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Fresh Start funding is available. Northern Ireland Water, for example, has advised the ICT that there may be issues with the water network capacity in relation to Priory Integrated College. That is an issue that has arisen on a number of Departments' capital projects. Obviously, it is causing concern to the planning element of the project.