PARENTS at Muirfield Primary School have delivered their damning verdict on controversial plans to merge them with Timmergreens Primary and form a new £8 million ‘super school’ just off the Westway.
Members of Muirfield Action Group, an independent body of parents, have made a 2,000 letter drop within the catchment of both schools to outline the reasons why they are opposed to a project Angus Council hope will be completed by August, 2013.
With the plans due to go to a crucial vote within the next month, there will be a public meeting at Muirfield Primary School at 6.30 p.m. on Tuesday for both sides to have their say.
And in the parents’ strongly-worded booklet entitled F.A.C.T.S, Muirfield Action Group claim:
r Funding for the project will come in the form of an £8 million loan, with peak annual repayments of £744,000 a year.
r Angus Council has been warned by their own finance department that proceeding with the build will impact on their ability to upgrade or renovate all other schools in the town for a minimum of ‘four or five years.’
r Some 500 children from Muirfield and Timmergreens will be crammed into a Hospitalfield site that is only a third of a football pitch bigger than Muirfield, within just 16 classrooms – compared to 12 at their current school.
r The consultation process – which has now officially ended – was flawed with over 634 responses from one computer and support from just one per cent of consultees for build on the Hospitalfield site.
r Detailed figures for estimated costings for refurbishment of both school builds have not been made public.
r Current proposals to safely allow 200 children to cross the busy Westway are unsuitable with just £50,000 budgeted to create a single new puffin crossing point on the 1.1 mile stretch of road.
However the local authority say the leaflet contains inaccuracies, which council officers will address at Tuesday’s meeting.
Opposition to the new school, which is part of the Arbroath Schools Project, has gathered pace in recent months as a final decision looms.
Banners have appeared on the site adjacent to the Hospitalfield land that has been earmarked for the new school.
Results from a Hospitalfield independent school survey, which were published in the Arbroath Herald last month, showed that 84 per cent of 110 respondents wanted money to be spent refurbishing schools instead of a new build.
And Karen Smith, a parent from Muirfield Action Group, said: “Our booklet is purely factual based and has been sourced from documents that have all come from Angus Council.
“We are not insisting that others have to agree with us, we are merely presenting facts that have not been at the forefront of communication that has so far been sent out by the council.
“Our biggest concern is that we are so close to a final decision on this school yet people have not been properly consulted. They have not been in full charge of the facts to make an informed decision during the official consultation period.
“We have spoken to several hundred people over the course of the past few months, simply by making the effort to knock on doors in the area and consult people.
“If Angus Council were to do likewise then they would understand there is a real depth of feeling against this proposal and, clearly, if they proceed with this project without further in-depth consultation then they are not listening to the people.
“The meeting on Tuesday should allow both sides their opportunity to present their argument and allow those affected to have their say.
“The consequences of this new school will impact on the whole town – not just the parents and children who currently go to Muirfield and Timmergreens.”
A spokeswoman for Angus Council confirmed a council official would be attending the meeting on Tuesday, but dismissed the claims made by the parents’ group.
She said: “A council officer will attend the meeting at Muirfield Primary School on Tuesday, May 17, to discuss the new school.
“The formal consultation process relating to the new school closed on April 1 and a report on the outcomes of the consultation will be brought before the Education committee on June 2.
“There a number of inaccuracies in the leaflet which will be addressed by council officers who will be attending the meeting.
“However regarding some of the specific points:
“The financing arrangements for capital projects are complex but in general terms the capital budget loan charges are offset by government grant and overall the council has demonstrated this project is affordable. Accordingly there is no impact on the budget of any school.
“Regarding investment in other Arbroath schools, the council is awaiting the outcome of an application for additional funding from the Scottish Government.
“The new school will be designed to accommodate up to 500 primary aged pupils with an internal area of around 3,500m2. This will be slightly bigger than other new schools recently built in Carnoustie, Forfar and Monifieth.
“The period of the recent consultation exercise was in accordance with the legal requirements of the process, including 30 school days during term time.
“A draft plan indicating safe routes to school has been developed. This will be refined in partnership with parents and include advice from road safety specialists. Appropriate funding will be provided to make improvements.”