THE Chronicle can exclusively reveal that the Education Authority (EA) has confirmed that ‘alternative educational uses’ of the Bushmills Education Centre are currently being considered.
The Centre was closed in August 2017 as part of a review of services in Northern Ireland in a bid to save the EA £1.5million, with local residents calling on the building to be repaired after falling into a state of decay (See Page 3).
After reading complaints made by concerned members of the public, Causeway DUP Councillor Sharon McKillop said in a letter written to the EA that it was ‘unacceptable’ that the building has fallen into ‘a state of disrepair’ and wants a final decision on whether or not the building will be used in the future.
She wrote: “This building has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair which is unacceptable to me and to the residents of Bushmills including historians. I would point out that you have a statutory duty to ensure the architectural fabric of this Grade B listed building is conserved.
“I would ask the Education Authority, before it makes its final decision of the future of the building, to consider reinstating it to its former use as a residential outdoor education centre given the rise in suicide, health and wellbeing issues people living in the province is suffering.
“I would ask you to put a price on someone’s life and question if making a saving of £1.5m warranted closing this facility that brought so many benefits to people, including children, who accessed the facility.
“I am still of the opinion that the outdoor education centre should not have closed as it was well situated and utilized up to the point of closure. The challenge is to ensure that there is a productive future use for the building.
“Bushmills deserves better than to have this building crumble and our people deserve to be given a good start in life; to learn about our environment, offered resilience and confidence building experiences to face the many challenges that life will throw at them.
“I ask that you give urgent consideration to the suggestion I have made as well as the matter of disrepair of an important listed building.”
A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said that the outdoor centre has not been ‘declared surplus to educational requirements.’
“The former Bushmills Residential Centre building in Bushmills remains in EA ownership and has not been declared surplus to educational requirements, as alternative educational uses are currently being considered. This exercise is ongoing and is not yet concluded.”
For more see this week's Ballycastle Chronicle