Consultation on schools’ merger set to begin

PLANS to merge Timmergreens and Muirfield Primary Schools on a brand new site in the west of Arbroath could be set to go out to a formal consultation.

At yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of the full Angus Council, education officers recommended that members agree to authorise the director of education to undertake a five-month consultation, which could see a new school in the town as early as August, 2013.

Previously, it had been suggested that a site on Arbirlot Road West would be the best place for the new building, but now the council is recommending land adjacent to Hospitalfield House as the preferred location.

The catchment areas of both Muirfield and Timmergreens would be merged and discussions are already ongoing with existing parent councils to come up with travel arrangements, as many of the pupils would have to cross the busy Westway road to get to the school.

In a report circulated at the meeting, director of education Neil Logue said that four different potential sites for the school were considered including the existing sites of Timmergreens and Muirfield and land off Arbirlot Road West.

But after a quality analysis of the locations, a site next to Hospitalfield House was deemed the best.

Mr Logue stated: “This quality assessment demonstrates that all sites have potential and that there are advantages and disadvantages with each.

“The determination of the preferred site is therefore based on a holistic assessment to identify, on balance, the most appropriate.

“Accordingly, from a quality perspective, the Hospitalfield site is identified as being the most suitable.”

Last year an informal consultation was carried out on the Angus Council website to try and gauge people’s opinions on how all school estate in Arbroath could be improved or upgraded.

A merger of Timmergreens and Muirfield on a site at Arbirlot Road West came out as the preferred option, but concerns were raised about the validity of the survey due to a high number of responses from people with no associations to the schools involved.

Several councillors have also voiced their concerns about the location of the new school arguing the east of the town is more in need of new facilities as that is where the majority of new housing is being created.

However, education officers believe a new school in the west of the town near to Hospitalfield House is the best option and will also give pupils “a sense of place” being close to the historical property.

Mr Logue added: “Having identified the Hospitalfield site as the preferred site for the new primary school to serve the west of Arbroath as a replacement for the existing Muirfield and Timmergreens Primary Schools, defined the proposed new catchment area and developed Westway pupil crossing arrangements as part of a draft school travel plan, the proposal is now emerging to a stage of development where a consultation exercise can be taken forward.

“There is also a requirement to progress the planning and design development processes in order to deliver the project in accordance with the project timetable.”