Councillor claims vital stages missing from school consultation

A FORMAL consultation into the plan to create a brand new £8 million school in the west of Arbroath is set to begin despite some councillors describing a report into the project as missing out “vital stages”.

At Thursday’s meeting of Angus Council, education officers recommended that members agree to authorise the beginning of a consultation period on merging both Timmergreens and Muirfield on a site in the grounds of Hospitalfield House.

This was agreed despite Arbroath SNP councillor Sheena Welsh asking for the decision to be deferred so the report could first be considered by the education committee.

She told the meeting that the education committee was told last year that any reports would come before them first as a teacher and a church representative also sit on the committee and their views should be taken into account.

Councillor Welsh explained: “First of all, can I say that I welcome any improvement of the school estate in Arbroath and do not wish in any way to cause a major delay or hold up in proceeding with the building of a new school.

“In their undue haste to push ahead, the Alliance have, yet again, missed out a complete stage in the correct and proper procedures of this council.

“Yet again, this council is being asked to jump the gun, to miss out vital stages which it has already agreed are necessary in an attempt to force items through without full and proper debate.”

“A fait accompli - whether we like it, approve it, or even vote against it. So much for full and frank discussion when decisions have obviously been made before opposition councillors get a chance to see the report.”

Several ruling Alliance councillors had suggested that progress would be too slow to get the school up and running by August 2013 if decisions are deferred and delayed.

But Councillor Welsh says it is important the correct procedures are followed with reports.

She added: “There would have been no great delay caused by waiting for the next education committee on March 3.

“Three weeks is hardly a major hold up in a project which will not be completed till August 2013 at the earliest! 

“Councillor Peter Nield [education convener] said ‘there will be other reports’ and yes, there will be but not these particular reports that already been agreed would be put before the education committee.

“There are obviously a lot of details and various matters to be resolved about the site, but that will work itself out over time.

“It may not seem much, but it is actually a serious matter when an organisation begins to ignore its own rules and procedures.”

Meanwhile, the Hospitalfield Trust which owns the land where the new school is to be built have confirmed they have agreed a price with Angus Council for the site and added they believe it will help secure the trust’s long term future.

Chair of the Patrick Allan-Fraser of Hospitalfield Trust, Kenneth Cargill said: “Some time ago, Angus Council enquired whether we were willing to sell part of the Hospitalfield estate for a new primary school development.

“The Board of Trustees decided that it was in principle willing to sell the land. Since then a price has been agreed and we now move on to the agreement of missives.

“Hospitalfield has had a highly successful year and has engaged in a great deal of strategic planning.

“A sale will enable us to strengthen the Trust’s financial position and to allow us to invest in some exciting new initiatives to secure the Hospitalfield’s long-term future.”