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La Salle pitch row flares up again ahead of work starting

CAMPAIGN: Residents protest on Glassmullin Green against the De La Salle sports facility plan CAMPAIGN: Residents protest on Glassmullin Green against the De La Salle sports facility plan
By Michael Jackson

DE La Salle College has come under fire for its handling of the development of a new sports facility on Glassmullin Green.
Work is set to begin on the £1.6 million multi use pitch in Glassmullin Gardens today, Monday (August 19).
The move had previously caused controversy between the school and some local residents, who have campaigned for the preservation of the green space.
Residents founded the Friends of Glassmullin Open Green (FOGOG) campaign group to oppose the development.
In recent months, the school had received criticism from local community representatives, including Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey, who said that it had failed to properly engage with people living in the area.
La Salle has distributed letter throughout the area giving less than three week’s notice that the contractors, Haffey Sports Grounds Ltd., were to begin construction.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Alex Maskey MLA “regretfully” hit out at the school for the timing of the move.
“I’m really, really disappointed that I find myself in a position where I am criticising the school in such a strong way publicly,” he said.
“The last thing I want to do is to add any more difficulty to the school because the big priority for me is to ensure that the kids in school get a good education, and whatever facilities they need I’m delighted that they can get them. They have obviously proved the need for the pitch, so they’ve got the money for it, they’ve got the planning for it, but at the very, very minimum they need to be making sure that the local community has a direct say in the facility and is part of the management of whatever goes onto the site.
“I am very disappointed that the school has decided to go ahead with this project on the 19th of this month, in the middle of the summer holidays when the school won’t be available to speak to anybody. I find it contemptuous of the local community. Despite a number of efforts that I and others have been involved in to get the school to engage properly with the local community, that has failed and I blame the school management.
“There are some residents who have been very strident in their opposition to anything going on that site and I understand where they are coming from. I see the reality that the project is going ahead because they had got the funding and planning permission. That being said, the school has to be a good neighbour, and in my view they’re not. They are bringing the school back into public controversy, which will no doubt happen that once the project starts, especially when the school management aren’t available to talk to residents, who will have to deal with some faceless contractor. We talked to the school about the timing of this, but they have gone ahead regardless.”
He added: I also think it was disgraceful that, only a week ago, the pupils were asked by the school management to deliver these letters. As I say, I think it’s contemptuous. I don’t like using that language, but that has been my experience of dealing with the school over the last couple of years and trying to reach an accommodation with the local community.
“The bottom line for me is that whatever goes on on that site that the local community has a right to be involved in a joint management of the facility – not to be patronised by the school, not to be invited to have a say, they have to have a joint responsibility.”
Responding to the criticisms, a spokesperson for De La Salle said the school had engaged in “considerable consultation” and modified plans three time to benefit its pupils and “the whole community”.
“The school has kept the community in touch with developments as the contract process drew to a conclusion including leaflet drops and an open evening in April to present and view final design plans. A meeting with residents followed shortly after the open viewing evening. The school also indicated that with tendering administration nearly complete the work would start by the summer. Following notification from the successful contractor the school provided details to residents immediately about the contract start arrangements. We also advised local political representatives. The start date is outside the control of the school but has been planned to ensure that as much work can be achieved before winter sets in. With the exception of one week, the school has been open all summer.
“The school has already invited residents to participate in a Management Committee to minimise the impact of any potential disruption to residents during the construction phase and to oversee the usage of the new facilities which will be available to the whole community next year. During the open viewing evening, at subsequent meetings and in written communications residents have been encouraged to join the Committee.
“We remain committed to working with the local residents during the construction phase and thereafter.”

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