Convener believes school plans will get go ahead

ANGUS education convener Peter Nield believes that there are no grounds for the calling in of the decision to construct a new £8 million school at Hospitalfield, Arbroath.

After the plans were approved by Angus Council last month, we reported that both local MSP Graeme Dey and campaigners the Muirfield Action Group had asked for the decision to be looked at more closely by the education secretary.

But Arbroath councillor Peter Nield says closing Muirfield and Timmergreens and merging them on a new site off the Westway is the right way to improve education.

He said: “The education minister has to make his decision on the facts as contained within the act, all legal advice given to Angus Council before education made the report to council and subsequently to the minister is yes, we have stuck to and acted in accordance with the act and our advice is there are no grounds for a call in.

“Clearly if the call in were to happen, and it is the minister’s decision, then that too is not the final decision as Angus Council has the right to then seek judicial review.

“The school estate management and the view from the government’s inspectors is that this is the right way to address falling pupil numbers, school maintenance and improve educational attainment.”

One of the main concerns raised by campaigners and Mr Dey against the new school is that the money spent on it would leave no funding for other school upgrades in Arbroath.

But Councillor Nield says the money spent on the new build will not have a detrimental effect on the budget to improve other town schools.

He added: “If the government gave us the funding for Arbroath phase two tomorrow, it will be after 2016 before anything could be done.

“This is borne out by the time-scale for Brechin, which is not our time-scale but the Scottish Government’s.

“The new replacement school cost savings will have the potential for increasing the school estate maintenance budget by another £225,000 per year.

“We also have £2.5 million allocated in the capital budget for phase two and a bid for £8 million for round three of the Scottish Government schools funding.

“I am astonished that the new MSP has got involved. We were all wet behind the ears at some point and I would have expected a new MSP to be a little more circumspect.”