THE Strule Shared Education Campus in Omagh may be further delayed after a bidder for the Main Works Contract on the project withdrew from the tender process.
The groundbreaking £140 million shared education facility will eventually see six schools built on the site of the former Lisanelly army base in Omagh.
Arvalee special school and resource centre opened to pupils in September 2016 and the other five schools planning to move on to the site are Loreto Grammar School, Omagh High School, Sacred Heart College, Omagh Academy and Christian Brothers Grammar School.
The original target opening date of 2020 for completion of the entire project has already been put back until 2021.
This latest setback – blamed on the ongoing political impasse at Stormont and the failure to strike a budget – may now delay the project even further.
The Strule Campus programme director, John Smith, has confirmed that the procurement process has been suspended.
Mr Smith, who is also deputy secretary at the Department of Education (DE), said they were now urgently assessing the implications for the ‘ongoing viability’ of the procurement process.
“We received correspondence indicating a bidder’s withdrawal from the tender process. As a result the decision was taken to suspend this process as we take stock of the situation,” he said.
“This is a disappointing development. However, the department remains fully committed to delivering the educationally and strategically significant SSEC programme.
“We will work closely with our stakeholders, including the local construction industry to mitigate any impact.”
The release of the ‘Invitation to Tender’ was only issued to the construction market earlier this month after being delayed due to ongoing uncertainty over capital allocations.
In December, a briefing from the Department of Finance on the budgetary outlook for Northern Ireland indicated that the campus could potentially received funding under the Fresh Start Agreement in addition to the DE’s conventional capital resources.