A Lurgan resident has said contractors working on the new-build St Ronan’s College are “contravening” planning approval by conducting piling on the site, despite planners saying this would not be the case.
Gerard Cafolla is a resident on the Cornakinnegar Road in the town where nearby construction work has recently begun on the new £56million campus for St Ronan’s College.
The construction project, which is under way on a 36-acre site, is expected to be completed by spring 2025.
Gerard says that despite assurances from ABC Council that piling would not be undertaken, he has reported exactly that taking place just yards from his property in recent days.
Piling is the process of driving pile foundations into the ground beneath a building that is under construction.
Armagh I has seen a letter from ABC Council dated October 2020, which included a copy of the planning report for the project. It said a Noise Impact Assessment (NIA) had been submitted with the proposal. The findings of the NIA were that “it is likely that there will be potential for construction noise impacts at the nearest noise sensitive receptors (residential properties) if worst case construction activities take place without mitigation measures in place”.
However, it added: “There is no piling proposed during the construction phase of the development. Therefore, there will be no vibration impact associated with construction phase of the proposed development.”
Gerard says he has had “great difficulty” with the site, referring to an incident from a number of years ago when portable buildings at the school were set on fire close to his property.
“We were nearly burnt out of our house”, he explained. “There were young lads drinking there and all sorts of anti-social behaviour, but they just ignored it.”
Gerard explained that the piling began around two weeks ago, despite being told that it wasn’t to be conducted on the site.
Indeed, even as he explained his plight over the phone, the loud thuds of the piling process could be heard in the background.
He explained: “My wife rang me and said the bath began to shake and the fireplace was vibrating as well. I began to inquire about this and found out that they were contravening their planning approval. I actually visited the site and spoke with the site manager and they’ve just carried on.”
Gerard says the noise has been extremely frustrating for the family, adding that, seemingly, nobody wants to listen to their concerns.
“On Tuesday [June 13] the noise was just unbelievable,” he said. “I received a message from a friend of mine who was waiting for the train in Lurgan station, and he said he could hear the piling there. It’s horrendous.
“Another chap told me his wife contacted him to say that her kitchen sink was shaking with the vibration and they were told that it was the lorries passing. That was a total lie for the simple reason that they were using the vibrating machine.”
He added: “My issue is that you’re not supposed to be piling at all. You do not have approval, and in the notification form that I received from the council regarding the plan, they said that there was no need for sound assessment to be carried out at all.
“The contractors are just contravening their approval. I take exception that if I were to build a shed or a garage or something without the planning approval, they would be telling me to take it down. I feel that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
“I just feel nobody gives a damn.”
A spokesperson for ABC Council commented: “We can confirm our planning department received a complaint on Thursday 08 June in relation to alleged unauthorised piling at the St Ronan’s College site. An investigation into this matter is currently under way.”
Armagh I reached out to Glasgiven Contracts, which is conducting the construction work, for comment.
The new campus of St Ronan’s College will feature a 20,000 square metre facility comprising three storeys and extensive outdoor sports provision. It will accommodate upwards of 1,750 pupils on the former St Michael’s Grammar School site.
St Ronan’s College, Lurgan is the second largest post primary school in Northern Ireland and was officially established in September 2015, as part of the vision for Catholic education in Lurgan with the amalgamation of the three legacy schools: St Michael’s Grammar School, St Mary’s High School and St Paul’s Junior High School.
The commencement of the work marked a significant milestone in the delivery of the new building following a series of challenges and delays.