AN AMBITIOUS project to create a public services hub has taken a step forward as plans to demolish the old Erne Hospital site in its entirety is to get underway within weeks.
The landmark site has been at the centre of a Fermanagh District Council (FDC) led plan to transform the area which could see a multi-million pound facelift for Enniskillen town centre.
It is envisaged that the South West College will be the first on site followed by, it is hoped, a number of government-run services.
Earlier this year the First and Deputy First minister hailed it as a project which will be “an example which others will follow”.
It has since emerged that a contract is to be signed “within coming weeks” which will be followed by the demolition of the old Erne hospital buildings, a process that could take up to five months.
Malachy McAleer, the Director at the South West College (SWC) in Enniskillen expressed his delight stating that the commencement of the demolition of the old Erne Hospital is “imminent”.
“SWC remains strongly committed to achieving a new campus on this site,” he added.
“The council and college now have a firm date for site availability and can focus on the functional aspects around land transfer such as, inter alia, land quality assessment, land valuation and final detailing of the business case for the proposed project.”
It is believed that FDC is hoping to purchase the site from the Western Health Trust and either lease or sell to interested public sector parties.
However, attempts to attract interest from government-run services based in Enniskillen town centre to relocate to the ‘hub’ appear to have attracted little interest.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Court Service, Jobs and Benefits office and the PSNI all say there are no plans to relocate from existing offices in the town centre.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) is currently in temporary accommodation on the old Erne hospital site and plans to develop a new station there.
Mr McAleer added: “This will be a major project for Enniskillen and the South West Region.”
A Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) spokesman said: “The Trust is currently completing a tender evaluation process and associated checks and will be in a position to award the contract in coming weeks, subject to receipt of satisfactory reports from the Design Team.”
It is expected that the SWC will be given the go-ahead to move on to the site following further consultations.
Mr McAleer has previously highlighted the need for a new building saying the current one will not be fit for purpose in the coming years. The college building situated on the Fairview campus was built in the 1970s.
Last year there were 3,500 full time and part time students enrolled at the Enniskillen campus and to date there has been 1,000 student enrolments with more expected in the coming months.
There are approximately 40 full time staff members at the Fairview site.
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