Almost 15 years after its closure, the former Duke of Westminster High School building in Ballinamallard has been demolished, with plans for the redevelopment of the site underway.

A spokesman for PJ Treacy and Sons contractor said: “PJ Treacy and Sons have begun demolition of the former Duke of Westminster school in anticipation of achieving planning permission in the coming weeks for a new development consisting of 34 new homes.”

The development will borrow its name from the former school – ‘Westminster Court’ and will consist of a mix of three and four bed detached and semi-detached homes, which follows on from the company’s recently completed College Park Lane development in Enniskillen together with its ongoing developments, ‘Bluebell Glade’ in Lisbellaw and ‘Parian Way’ in Belleek.

The Duke of Westminster High School Ballinamallard was opened in 1960 and an extension followed in 1968 at a cost of £80,000.

Over 44 years, the secondary school educated numerous generations of children, many were local, some came from further afield. For many years it was one half of a ‘double-sited’ school, the other part being situated in Kesh, approximately 10 miles away.

Talking of the school’s closure, Robin Paget, Secretary of Ballinamallard Development Association said: “Eventually, North Fermanagh parents seemed to think it an attractive idea to send their children to Enniskillen, to what is now Devenish College.”

He continued: “This tied in with the thinking of the Education Authorities who favoured centralisation. Perhaps people of the time failed to realise that this would, due to falling numbers, eventually lead to the demise of the Duke of Westminster High School which, sadly, closed in 2004.”

Bert Johnston, a member of the Ballinamallard Development Association committee commented that since the school’s closure, the building has been in a state of progressive dereliction.

He continued: “In recent weeks the demolition contractors have been at work.

“All that remains of a once-proud educational establishment is a forlorn heap of broken masonry, no doubt concealing 40 years’ worth of mostly good memories.”

Noting that “all is not lost,” Mr. Paget added: “There are plans in hand to build some 30 much-needed houses on the site.

“The hope is that this development will indeed proceed, and a modern housing area will arise, phoenix-like, from the remains of the old school.

“This will provide a welcome boost to the economy of the village.”

He concluded: “It will also rejuvenate the surrounding area, which for too long has been a sorrowful picture of neglect.”