Battle over proposed closure of Bushmills Outdoor Education Centre switching to Stormont

A variety of programmes are offered at Bushmills Education Centre.
A variety of programmes are offered at Bushmills Education Centre.

The battle for the future of the closure-threatened Bushmills Outdoor Education Centre will switch to Stormont next week.

A debate on the Education Authority’s proposal to shut the multi-purpose facility by August of next year has been scheduled for Tuesday’s sitting of the Assembly Business Committee.

It has been tabled by North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan who is keen that the local community’s views on the rationalisation plan are heard

The Sinn Fein representative said: “I am delighted that the Assembly Business Committee is allowing the debate on the issue of the proposed closure of the Bushmills Centre.

“This is important for the staff that work in the centre, for the community of Bushmills, for the wider north Antrim community and for the pupils of schools and communities across north Antrim and across the North that use the centre.

“It is important that the issues at the heart of the matter are heard at Stormont during the consultation period.”

The Bushmills centre is one of four earmarked for closure following a comprehensive review of residential and outdoor provision in Northern Ireland by the EA.

Earlier this month a 12-week consultation period on the proposals opened. Members of the community have already issued a ‘hands off’ warning.

Flagging up the potential closure, TUV Alderman Sharon McKillop previously warned it would be “a seriously retrograde step”.

She said: “Outdoor educational centres are important for young people not just when it comes to their health and physical activity but also contact with nature.”

The Ballymoney Times was also contacted by a ‘concerned member of staff’ who claimed that Bushmills Education Centre is “fully booked all year round” and its closures would be not only be a loss to schools and youth organisations of the are but would also affect the lives and families who are employed there.

The employee called on members of the public to lobby at council and government level for its retention.