Heated meeting sees school plan progress

THE CONTROVERSIAL plans to merge two Arbroath primary schools and house them in a new build facility at Hospitalfield were the subject of a heated meeting of Angus Council’s education committee.

Members agreed by 12 votes to six to go forward with the proposals to replace Timmergreens and Muirfield Primaries with a new school on the Westway.

In an acrimonious meeting, feelings ran high and for a time it appeared that a decision might be postponed.

However, the vote was still taken which will also go before the full council meeting at the end of the month, and, if approved, will be passed to Scottish ministers for consideration.

At the meeting representations from two parents were heard, including one from Muirfield Action Group’s Ewan Smith.

The group is currently collecting a petition to force Angus Council to re-think their plans for the school, as they believe the £8 million spent on the project would leave no cash available for other school upgrades in the town.

Mr Smith said: “The response to our petition has been incredible. We have collected an average of more than 100 names a day in just over a week and very few people are refusing to sign. “It’s clear the message has got home to people in Arbroath that this new school isn’t just an issue that is isolated to the west of the town that the impact will hit hard on schools all over the town. “There is an admission from Angus Council in their own consultation report that there will be no money for other schools for ‘four or five years’. They have argued that dealing with issues such as heating problems at Warddykes would be ‘counter-productive’ in the short-term.” He continued: “For parents who have children shivering in classes with their coats on during winter that is unacceptable and the common-sense approach with the £8 million loan must be to spend money on improving all schools in the town. “The bottom line is we don’t feel the education being offered at a proposed new school will be better than the one our children already get.”

Timmergreens parent Kevin Barthorpe also addressed the meeting and queried the claim that 90 per cent of parents were in favour of the new school. Education convener Peter Nield maintained that the local authority had listened to all the concerns raised by parents during the consultation process and said Angus Council has a commitment to improve education.

However, Arbroath councillor Sheena Welsh tabled an amendment to the report, which, if successful, would have seen councillors just note the report made by HMIE rather than approve the plans.

And she added that crossing the Westway, for some pupils, makes the Hospitalfield site less than safe.

Councillor Welsh said: “I feel that the problems thrown up by the Hospitalfield site and the excessive measures which will have to be taken if we are to come near to reassuring parents of children who will have to cross the Westway that their children will be safe indicate that this site is far from ideal. “Road safety is always at the forefront of parents’ minds. When a child is upset or over-excited all sense of road safety goes out the window. It only takes one child on one occasion.” “In the 1970s, Angus County Council built one school on each side of the Westway for good sound reasons. Traffic volume has increased exponentially since then. If it didn’t make sense then, it certainly doesn’t make sense now.” Fellow SNP Arbroath councillor Donald Morrison added: “When the results of the previous consultation were brought to committee last year, I stated in this chamber how uncomfortable it was to agree a report which I still believed lacked total transparency and fairness even after the dubious computer responses had been discounted. “Arbroath councillors, past and present, know exactly how busy the Westway is and with a new supermarket soon to open at the bottom of the road this will only increase traffic numbers both commercial and private. “It is with regret that again I am unable to fully support this because I remain extremely uncomfortable with the situation.”