ANGUS Council was told to go back and reconsider their plans to merge Muirfield and Timmergreens primaries into a new school off the Westway at a heated public meeting on Tuesday night.
Next month the plans to create an £8 million new development in the grounds of Hospitalfield House will go to a crucial council vote, but an independent parent body, the Muirfield Action Group (MAG), has raised serious concerns regarding the proposals.
At Tuesday’s meeting at Muirfield Primary, the biggest so far, representatives from Angus Council’s education department, Craig Clement and Gordon Cargill, addressed a packed hall along with Ewan Smith a parent from MAG.
The council officials put forward their case for a new school on the Hospitalfield site explaining it would improve education in the town.
Mr Clement said: “From an education department perspective we see this whole project will improve primary school estate in Arbroath and this is just the first phase.
“The new school will enhance opportunities for young people and provide a stimulating and supportive environment in a school fit for the 21st century.”
However, Mr Smith raised a number of issues he and other parents have with the plans which include worries about children having to cross the Westway, one of the busiest routes in Arbroath, and that the new build could be too small with an insufficient number of classrooms.
He also revealed the findings of a freedom of information request he submitted to Angus Council asking for a breakdown of costs on how much it would be to refurbish Muirfield and Timmergreens rather than merge them on a new site.
He showed the meeting that the estimated costings he had been sent back to him in the form of a handwritten note and claimed there was a lack of detail relating to how the council came to the figure of £8.4 million to refurbish both schools separately.
The parents’ group also carried out a vote at the meeting to judge how many people were happy with the proposals. It resulted in 120 of 124 respondents saying they were not happy for the plans to go ahead.
Along with the finance for the project, the main worry parents voiced was concerning their children having to cross the Westway, one of the main routes in and out of the town.
The council noted that they have consulted road traffic advisors and a school travel plan would be put into place and that this would be completed in conjunction with the schools and parents.
But several parents still believe crossing the Westway would be too dangerous for their children even if a pedestrian crossing and a school crossing patroller were put in place.
Mr Smith said: “I’m absolutely staggered that this is the only homework they have done with regards to refurbishment on this project. A handwritten note on scrap paper.
“For the sake of £400,000 the two schools according to the figures could be refurbished and we would not have the problem of some children having to cross the Westway to attend.”
Recently elected MSP Graeme Dey was also in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting and spoke during the closing stages when he urged the council to think carefully about these plans.
He said: “I came here tonight to listen and now the council need to do the same.
“Some really serious concerns have been raised tonight and I would like to ask Angus Council to go away and think and then come back with a different proposal.”
l See letters page 14