Clock ticking on Erne hub scheme
An artist's impression of the planned public service hub at the Erne site.
The proposal to redevelop the former Erne Hospital site to re-locate a number of public services including South West College, could fit into the Northern Ireland Assembly's plans for their asset management strategy.
Fermanagh District Council's chief executive, Brendan Hegarty, has told councillors that if the government was looking for a pilot project to drive this strategy, then he felt the Erne project presented a great opportunity.
He revealed how the project had a difficult timescale, as the proposed anchor tenant, South West College had a limited timeframe to redevelop because of funding requirements. There was a funding package worth millions in reserve for South West College redevelopment from the Department for Education and Learning.
By creating this public services hub, the site would attract other agencies such as the Jobs and Benefits Office, Enniskillen Library, the PSNI and Court Service and the Housing Executive.
He also revealed other issues such as the risk from contaminants which might exist on the site. He said no-one knew of the extent of contaminants until they held a land quality assessment and this was something which would be prove difficult to complete until buildings were demolished.
Regarding the Pauper's Graves, Mr. Hegarty said they had initially engaged with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and correspondence from them indicated that this was not a registered archaelogical site and that it was a matter for the Council to handle.
He said the matter required further consideration and he would raise the matter again with NIEA. Some councillors have asked for the matter to be treated sensitively as there was a lot of historic detail on the site surrounding the Pauper's Graves, the renewed interest on the role of the workhouse and the famine memorial.
The Council is currently preparing a business case for the purchase of the site, with negotiations with KPMG to take place shortly.
The Council's proposals to create the public services hub at the Erne site were presented to the First Minister, Peter Robinson and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness when they visited Enniskillen recently. The Council presented the plan which envisages a multi-million pound redevelopment of the site which extends to over 12 acres. A footbridge running parallel to the Johnston Bridge would connect the site to the town centre.
Both the First and Deputy First Ministers were highly impressed with the plans which they said would be part of the urban regeneration of Enniskillen. Both said they would be reflecting on how to take the next steps forward.
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 04 Oct 12