‘Bullying tactics’ of College build protesters is slammed

An artist's impression of the new campus at Craigavon Lakes.
An artist's impression of the new campus at Craigavon Lakes.
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A local councillor has lashed out at ‘bullying tactics’ by some people opposed to the new Southern Regional College at Craigavon Park.

A local councillor has lashed out at ‘bullying tactics’ by some people opposed to the new Southern Regional College at Craigavon Park.

A vocal and online campaign was launched by a group called Save Craigavon Park and Lakes following proposals to build a new £45m college close to Craigavon Lakes.

The group is vehemently opposed to the development which is close to the planned South Lakes Leisure Centre on a variety of grounds including environmental and traffic issues.

Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle said he was shocked when he received a barrage of abuse when he posted his support of the new college development.

Cllr Mackle posted on Facebook a photo of Craigavon Lakes from the 1970s with a newly built Marlborough House in the background and the ‘the embryonic shopping centre that would become Rushmere’.

The Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Councillor said: “Significantly to the right of the lakes, the South Lake area is still farmland, there is no sign of ancient ‘parkland’. Craigavon Council subsequently developed some pathways and cycle paths around the lakes as well as stocking the lakes with fish for anglers.

“The land around the south of the lakes has now been approved as the site for a new multi million pound Leisure Centre, which will significantly enhance the visitor experience and attraction of the lakes. The development of the new Southern Regional College site, a world-leading further education facility on the shores of the lakes will further enhance not only the lakes but will be of massive benefit to the citizens right across the borough.

“This massively significant public investment at the two sites, worth well over £70 million will provide much needed employment in our local construction industry and hundreds of jobs. When complete the two sites will not only complement each other but will be transformative for not only central Craigavon but the wider Lurgan and Portadown areas. Investment! Employment! Opportunity! Transformation!

“I for one am very excited by these developments and the massive potential they will have for our community. Health! Well-being! Learning!”

While Cllr Mackle received significant backing for his stance, he said he felt some opposed to the development were increasingly using bullying tactics towards anyone supporting the College build.

He said there were serious and libelous allegations made that councillors and staff were taking ‘backhanders’ - allegations he describes as ridiculous.

“I have always worked hard for my constituents and for the whole area. These scurrilous allegations hurt very much from people who don’t seem to care what they say. It is SRC who are building the college not the council and I was only expressing my opinion. There are those who seem to think that massive public programs like this can just be moved at the drop of a hat. If the college does not go ahead on the lakeside site then the funding will go elsewhere and the development will be lost.”

A spokesperson for the Save Craigavon Park and Lakes said: “As a group we do not partake in bullying or abuse. We have submitted a complaint to Sinn Fein and Council because of his (Cllr Mackle’s) conduct. The purpose of the Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes Community Group is to fight to save our park and people are angry at Council’s decision to sell it off. If he chooses to make public statements as a public representative, then the public will respond. We, as a group, have not been abusive to Mr Mackle. The opinion of our followers is their own.”