Government ‘call in’ town schools project

PLANS to close two Arbroath primary schools and merge them in a new £8 million building at Hospitalfield have hit a major stumbling block.

The Scottish Government has called in the decision made by Angus Council to move Timmergreens and Muirfield on to a new site off the Westway after 50 letters of objection about the proposal were received by Holyrood.

Ministers have opted to examine the decision taken by Angus Council to go ahead with the plans on the grounds that the local authority may not have carried out a sufficient consultation and that road safety issues have not been addressed.

It is thought that council officers will meet with government education officials to discuss a way forward for the plans with a decision being made as soon as possible.

A spokesperson for Angus Council confirmed that the decision had been called in by the Scottish Government but added they would welcome the discussion.

They said: “Angus Council has been informed by the Scottish Government that the council’s decision to close Muirfield and Timmergreens primary schools in Arbroath has been called-in by Scottish Ministers.

“While the council is disappointed by this decision we welcome the opportunity to have a formal discussion with the government about our proposals for a new school in Arbroath and are confident we can provide Ministers with the assurances they are seeking.”

One group which has been campaigning against the proposal is the Muirfield Action Group (MAG), a body made up of parents who have voiced concerns about both the consultation process and road safety on the Westway.

And Ewan Smith of MAG was happy to see the Scottish Government wanting to take a closer look at the decision.

He explained: “We are pleased that we now have an independent set of eyes looking fully at the proposal.

“We have been quite vocal in our opposition to this new school for extremely valid reasons.

“Several points of law have been breached, as referred to in the official ‘call-in’ letter, and we would now hope there would be a complete investigation into all aspects of this proposal.

“The disregard for the safety of children is staggering. Angus Council’s own roads department have explicitly pointed out the dangers of building a new school at Hospitalfield.”

And Mr Smith is also calling for the meeting between the Scottish Government and Angus Council to be made public.

He added: “Far too many key decisions over our children’s future have been taken behind closed doors. 

“For that very reason we have written to the Scottish Government requesting that the ‘video conference call’ they propose holding with Angus Council is viewable to the general public.

Meanwhile Arbroath councillor Sheena Welsh, who is the SNP group education spokesperson, was also happy to see the decision called in and said she is pleased the plans will be looked over by an independent body.

She said: “I am delighted that the government has listened to the concerns of the Muirfield Action Group, the SNP Group on Angus Council and the many individuals who wrote to the Scottish Government Education Secretary expressing concerns over the way in which the decision to build a new school in the west end of Arbroath and close the two existing schools was made.

“At least now the people of Arbroath can be secure in the knowledge that the whole matter will be closely examined down to the last detail, and that the issues surrounding the consultation and the safety of our children will at last be looked at rationally and independently.”