Road safety concern at lively public debate

CONSULTATION over the proposal to merge Timmergreens and Muirfield Primary Schools in Arbroath on a new site at Hospitalfield continued on Tuesday, with a public meeting at Arbroath High School.

The principle concerns expressed related to road safety, with the proposed school’s access on the busy Westway.

The site the council has in mind comprises two fields to the north and east of the HOPE gardens.

Sixty-five people attended the public meeting, including five members of Angus Council and a representative of Her Majesty’s Inspectors.

But some of the views that have been expressed against the proposed site are quite vehement.

For example, Isobel and Ed Sutton-Jones have described the Hospitalfield site as “a nine-million-pound accident blackspot”.

They say the new school would be within 200 metres of the Westway junctions with Arbirlot Road and Arbirlot Road West.

And local resident Brian Cowie said that a number of people walked out of the meeting, expressing disgust at the way that councillors were employing “bully-boy tactics” and not giving straight answers to questions.

Even after the meeting Mr Cowie still does not know why these two schools have been selected for merger rather than older ones being replaced, and why the Hospitalfield site has been chosen.

He also told us that one speaker from the floor read a quote from some time ago, allegedly from education convener Peter Nield, saying that he had grave concerns about children crossing Westway.

Mr Nield indicated that he had no recollection of making the statement.

Mr Cowie concluded: “I am one hundred per cent convinced that the new school will go ahead, no matter who says what. That’s why people are disgusted.”

Education convener Peter Nield told us that he had hoped for a larger turnout at the meeting, given that two schools are involved, with a double catchment area.

He accepted that there would be issues over road safety, and said that if the Hospitalfield site was the one chosen, there would be close consultation over road safety between Angus Council’s roads and education departments.

He emphasised the need for parents and other interested parties to let Angus Council know their views and said: “As many people as possible must let Angus Council know if they are for or against the site.

“You can write or you can use download a form from the council’s website. When completed these can be handed in to the schools, or to the council’s ACCESS offices.”

He continued; “Consultation has been going on for two years, and this was the third public meeting, in addition to ongoing discussions with parent councils and staff.”

However, Mr and Mrs Sutton-Jones claim that Tuesday’s public meeting was the only one, and they also claim that the Angus Council website “is very intermittent”.

Mr Nield went on to say that public consultation continues until the end of April, when the response will be collated and a report produced for the council.

The next stage at that point is to put the council’s proposal to Her Majesty’s Inspectors, and then to the Scottish Government. It has six weeks to decide whether to approve or review a proposal. When its decision has been made known, it is binding.

Asked what the shortest time scale might be, Mr Nield said that it would be possible for work to start on site about this time next year.