Woman protesting at Southern Regional Campus decision ‘escorted’ from ABC council chamber

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Hundreds of protestors gathered outside Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night in protest at a decision on the new Southern Regional College campus.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council’s planning committee gave the green light to the campus set to be built at the south Lakes beside the new leisure centre.

Protesters from the campaign group Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes at Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night

Protesters from the campaign group Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes at Craigavon Civic Centre on Monday night

However members and supporters of the campaign group Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes held a vocal protest as the full council held their monthly meeting at the Civic Centre.

One protestor was ‘escorted’ from the Council chamber after she spoke during the meeting, which is against Council policy.

She said she was speaking out ‘against the hypocrisy of our elected members’.

Later a campaign group spokesperson said: “Councillors you really should hang your heads in shame. You have lost touch with the area you live in and the people you claim to represent.

“There has been an absolute failure to represent in this area and we will not forget! It needed to be said- you are a bunch of hypocrites! Shame on you!”

However Sinn Fein representative Michael Tallon, who is a keen fisherman and wildlife enthusiast, said he was as passionate about Craigavon Lakes but queried the ‘misinformation’ as a result of the SRC campus.

Mr Tallon said: “The future of the lakes are not at risk, anglers will still have full access as now, the Craigavon Park will be as accessible and attractive to visitors, walkers and cyclists after SRC is built as it was before.

“The environment for wildlife will be protected and were trees are removed, as in any construction, they must be replaced - in this case with even more tree than before.

“The opponents of the SRC build are perfectly entitled to their opinion and if they have legal grounds they should have access to a Judicial Review of the Planning decision. The Court should then quickly arbitrate on the evidence before them. There is too much at stake for this scheme to be subject to endless delays.

Mr Tallon said: “The sale of Council land to the Southern Regional College to build a new campus at the Lakes was supported by all the parties on the Council. Those now suggesting if elected they will reverse that decision or stop the new build are either naïve or believe the public are. I for one know the public are not!”

“Ulster Unionist Party Craigavon representative, Kate Evans, said: “This is an issue that has united many people in Craigavon from right across the political divide. Over 6000 people signed the petition against the planning permission yet Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Councillors passed the application and in doing so completely ignore the wishes of their constituents.

“There is no doubt this is a fantastic investment for the Craigavon area, but to place it at the lakes is the wrong decision, a decision the people of Craigavon are against. It is also clear that it was a decision made without all the information which does raise concerns about how planning works in the council area.

“Last night around 200 people gathered in a peaceful protest. It was a protest brought about by frustration and a feeling that those elected by the people do not listen to what the people want. In this I urge those same people to make this know when electing future councillors.

“For now there remain so many unanswered questions over this planning application, yet our elected representatives ratified this decision without being given all the answers.”

The campaign group Save Craigavon Park and Lakes has vowed not to give up and are planning legal action.