Empty schools are costing the taxpayer money

The former Ravarnette Primary School. US1528-510cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
The former Ravarnette Primary School. US1528-510cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has revealed that empty schools are costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds, with one of the longest schools lying empty being named as Ravarnette Primary School in Lisburn.

Ravarnette Primary School has been vacant since 1999 and it is understood that legal issues have meant that the Education Authority cannot dispose of the site.

Ballycarrickmaddy Primary School has been vacant since 2002, when the school was granted a new state of the art building.

The cost of maintaining these, together with 25 other vacant schools in Northern Ireland, has amounted to £698,500 over the last three years.

The statistics were revealed by the Education Minister following a question, which was tabled by DUP peer Lord Morrow.

“These are worryingly high costs to the taxpayer and if the properties are not going to be reused for education purposes, or utilised in a meaningful way, they should be sold on,” said Lord Morrow.

“There is nothing to be gained except further maintenance expenditure, which is not an investment if there is no possibility of reactiviation for use.”

An Education Authority spokesperson defended the expenditure.

“The Education Authority has a responsibility to ensure that its vacant property is safely and securely maintained,” she said.

“This includes sealing the vacant buildings to avoid unauthorised entry and deploying various security measures to prevent damage and protect the value of the assets for resale.”

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he would be raising the issue with the Education Authority and that decisions needed to be taken ofver the future of the local sites.

“I know that in the case of the two schools in our locality that are vacant, there are localised site related issues that arose of a protected nature and they do need to be resolved,” said Mr Donaldson.

“I will be raising this with the Education Authority and asking for progress to be made and decisions taken about what is going to happen with these vacant buildings.”