Government ‘no’ to project

ANGUS Council failed to provide clear and accurate information in the consultation process, according to the Scottish Government which has scrapped the Arbroath Schools Project.

It was announced on Tuesday that the plans for a new £8 million ‘super school’ at Hospitalfield House were being rejected by ministers after concerns were raised over the initial consultation and road safety at the proposed new site.

The local authority had planned to close both Muirfield and Timmergreens primaries and house those pupils in the new school, which would be located off the Westway.

But the plans faced stiff opposition from many who felt there was a lack of consultation over the proposals.

The education secretary, Mike Russell, had been reviewing the plans since they were called in last summer. And it seems he reached his decision to axe the proposals as it was unclear why the condition of the Muirfield Primary building was downgraded.

A letter from the government to council education director Neil Logue reads: “It is important, that there should be confidence in not only the accuracy of the information being provided as part of the consultation process but also clarity as to how it has been derived.

“In this case, while the council has maintained a database on the condition rating of the schools with reference to the government’s guidance on assessing and reporting the condition rating of schools, ministers note that there does not appear to be an auditable process in place to explain how records have been derived or a record of why and how changes have been made.

“In this case, ministers have concluded the council has failed in this regard and are not confident that the information presented in support of the case for closure is both clear and accurate.

“Ministers are of the view that the council’s consultation has not been fully transparent and that the information presented has not been wholly accurate.”

One of the main campaigners against the school plans was Ewan Smith of the Muirfield Action Group, who put in numerous Freedom of Information requests to uncover information about the plans.

He reacted to the decision by saying: “There is no sense of victory or jubilation, just relief. This campaign has not been about one person or a small group of people. It has been about a community coming together to stand up for what they believe in and if there is any good to come of this then it’s that we have shown that people power can impact on major decisions.”

Angus MSP Graeme Dey also welcomed the decision. He stated: “As I said at the time, it was important given the heat that this issue generated, that the decision of the council and the background to it was assessed in a calm, objective and dispassionate manner.

“Ministers have taken their time and gone in to this matter in great detail before reaching their conclusion, and I welcome the decision reached.”

A spokesperson for Angus Council commented: “Angus Council believes that the proposal to merge Timmergreens and Muirfield primary schools within a new, state of the art school building at Hospitalfield is the best solution to address the declining physical condition of the existing, under-occupied school buildings and to provide pupils, staff and the local people with facilities fit for a modern learning community.

“A report setting the options now available to the council will be submitted to the full meeting of Angus Council on Thursday (February 9).”