A new £30 million Northern Regional College - to replace the Coleraine and Ballymoney campuses - could be given government approval within weeks.
Brenda Crotty, NRC’s Director of Planning and Customer Services, told staff at a campus meeting in Coleraine on January 17 that the outcome of the college’s Outline Business Case (OBC) is imminent.
Over the past six months NRC’s governing body has held discussions with Coleraine Planning Department to look at various sites in Coleraine.
Among these are the NRC-owned football pitch at Brook Street, the current grounds of the Coleraine college at Union Street, The Ramparts and Coleraine Leisure Centre.
At the Coleraine meeting staff were informed that they could potentially expect a new build by September 2017, subject to the approval of the OBC by both the Department for Employment & Learning (DEL) and Department of Finance and Personnel which is in its final stages.
The college has been looking at a new building of 15,507 square metres with an estimated cost of around £30 million, subject to the site itself.
It’s expected that the Ballymoney campus would close as has been outlined in the college’s Business Improvement Plan (2010-2016).
Currently the student population on the Ballymoney campus is around 1,600 with about 2,000 in Coleraine.
At a meeting in August last year it was minuted that governors had shown a lack of enthusiasm for the Brook Street site, considering it restricted and unattractive with difficult access.
A new build on the current Coleraine site at Union Street could prove costly and be disruptive to college life due to its construction.
Consideration has been given to a number of other sites in Coleraine including The Ramparts, close to the town centre and the Leisure Centre.
However the Ramparts has been designated for retail purposes and the Leisure Centre site at Railway Road is unlikely to be available until 2018.
NRC has carried out a PAD process including schematic drawings of the proposed new build and once overall approval is obtained a design team will be appointed to prepare a planning application.
However if a suitable local site cannot be found the college may have to find a greenfield location or look at prioritising the Ballymena build in the interim.
Further discussions and costings are taking place over the next few weeks before a final decision can be reached.
A spokesperson for Northern Regional College declined to comment at this stage.