Demolition of disused school buildings ‘a terrible shame’

The former Newtownabbey Community High School site in Rathcoole.
The former Newtownabbey Community High School site in Rathcoole.

Ongoing vandalism and arson attacks at a disused school building in Co Antrim have forced the Education Authority to fork out almost £300,000 to demolish the property.

The former Newtownabbey Community High School site in Rathcoole, where some of the buildings were only constructed in 2002, has been reduced to rubble over the past few weeks.

It was hoped that the newer parts of the vacant property could have been used for alternative purposes, but the Education Authority (EA) said that was no longer an option due to extensive vandalism.

Local DUP councillor Paul Hamill said it was “a terrible shame” to see the place being demolished.

“It is extremely disappointing that the relatively new part of the building has been vandalised beyond repair and has to be knocked down. I had hoped it could have been used for other purposes, possibly some sort of community hub,” he commented.

The school closed three years ago following its merger with nearby Monkstown Community School to form Abbey Community College. Since that time the EA has been looking at possible new uses for the site.

The buildings had been used by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for training purposes, but following regular attacks by vandals and arsonists the EA took the decision to level the site.

“The former Newtownabbey Community High School building was in a poor condition at the time of its closure in 2015 and since then heavy and regular vandalism throughout the site has further deteriorated the condition of all buildings. In addition, two of the buildings were damaged by a major fire that was deliberately started in June 2017,” an EA spokesperson said.

“The NIFRS temporarily used the premises for training purposes, however no further use of the building has been viable. Given the poor condition and regular vandalism, EA took the decision to demolish.”

Some of the classrooms at the Rathcoole Drive property were only constructed in 2002 as part of a school extension project. However, the EA said “extensive damage” had been caused to the building by thieves and vandals.

The 12-week demolition project has left the EA with a bill for £298,470.

Commenting on its future plans for the site, the EA said it is “one of a number of options under consideration within the business case and feasibility study” for the proposed Abbey Community College new build project.