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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
School 'breached planning laws'
Road works near the school are incomplete
Road works near the school are incomplete
A primary school on a busy County Down road has been told it is in flagrant breach of planning laws and that children's lives are at risk.

Department of the Environment planners have served an enforcement notice on the Millennium Integrated Primary School on the road between Belfast and Saintfield.

The row centres on access to the school and road safety along the busy stretch.

Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt personally agreed the enforcement act.

Principal Mary Rolston
Principal Mary Rolston: "No-one has contacted me"

He said the school authorities had "wilfully and shamefully" ignored the planning conditions.

When permission was granted for a school on the site two months ago, planners said it was conditional on a safer roads scheme being completed before the school could open.

However, despite work continuing on the road, the school opened on Monday.

'Immediate action'

Police officers arrived to control rush-hour traffic at the school entrance.

The minister does not have the power to close the school, but he is calling on the school authorities to take immediate action.

Principal Mary Rolston said no-one had contacted her about the problem.


It was my understanding that enough of the work had been done for the school to open

Mary Rolston
Principal

"I'm not so clear about what the Department of the Environment are unhappy about," she said.

"Nobody has been in touch with me. I haven't received a phone call or a letter to explain.

"A principal needs to be able to make sensible decisions. If there is a danger to the children or families, or to other road users... that we act sensibly and make the right decision."

'Planning approval'

She said the school opening had already been delayed.

"It was my understanding that enough of the work had been done for the school to open."


I have taken immediate enforcement action for no further work to continue at that school

Dermot Nesbitt
Environment minister

The school has 28 days to appeal the enforcement notice, but it is likely the road works will be completed before that.

Michael Wardlow from the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Schools said: "I have been to the school and the only thing that is outstanding, as I understand it, is that there will be a middle lane put in the road to allow a car coming from Saintfield towards Belfast to sit in the middle lane if it is turning right into the school.

"We have built around 17 new schools in the last seven years and for every one of those school projects we liaise intensely with all the people such as road services, planners and police."

He added: "If some how, by not supplying this central ghost lane we have breached those conditions, we would hold our hands up and would have to get a remedy sorted out - we don't want any confrontation here."

The environment minister said the planning approval was very clear.
Planners are concerned about access
Planners are concerned about access

"No work was to commence at all on that school until the road alignment from a safety point of view was completed," said Mr Nesbitt.

"Not only is the alignment not at all done yet, but the school is actually functioning.

"They are in clear breach of planning approval.

"I have taken immediate enforcement action for no further work to continue at that school.

"I have sent a letter to the authorities first thing this morning... to say they have created a very dangerous potential situation on a very busy thoroughfare, involving the school and parents, and they should put their house in order."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's environment correspondent Mike McKimm:
"The school has 28 days to appeal the enforcement notice"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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