East Garioch councillor Martin Ford has welcomed progress towards improvements in school accommodation in the ward he represents.
Item 9 on the agenda at Aberdeenshire Council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee last Thursday (4 February) was an update on the Council’s Learning Estates Strategy.
During discussion of the Learning Estates Strategy report, Cllr Ford raised issues relating to local school accommodation including at Newmachar, Kintore, Blackburn and Hatton of Fintray.
Included in the learning estates project plan for 2016 is a Newmachar primary school option appraisal. Said Cllr Ford:
“House building is on-going in Newmachar and planning permissions for housing are in place on sites at Kingseat and on the east side of Newmachar – so the Council does need to move forward with planning for additional capacity at Newmachar.”
Land is reserved for a second primary school in Newmachar within the Newmachar East mixed-use development site.
Cllr Ford welcomed the reported good progress Morrison Construction are making with building the new Kintore Midmill School.
“After the long delay in getting started, it’s obviously excellent that the actual building work is getting on so well. The new school building is now clearly visible from a number of locations in Kintore.”
On the site choice for the replacement building for the current Kinellar School, Cllr Ford said:
“The choice between rebuilding on the present school site or continuing to try to acquire the replacement school site identified in the local development plan is not an easy decision. There are advantages and disadvantages with both options. Neither choice is risk free.
“On balance, the certainty that comes with the Council already owning the current school site is probably a decisive advantage. But the site identified for the new school in the local development plan is larger and moving the school to it would free up the present school site, potentially for other community facilities. The present site is smaller than ideal for the larger school needed.
“Also, there may be other planning applications for the site allocated in the local development plan for the new school if it is not used for that purpose.”
Cllr Ford raised concerns about the accommodation at Hatton of Fintray School. The Council’s rating of the overall suitability of the Hatton of Fintray school building is ‘C’ (= ‘poor – showing major problems and/or not operating optimally’). Cllr Ford said:
“Hatton of Fintray School Association has contacted the Council in particular about the lack of proper office facilities in the school for the head teacher and administrator, and suggested a way forward. I hope the Council will be able to respond positively.”
Cllr Ford also questioned officers about overall school roll forecasts for Aberdeenshire, which show continuing roll increases are expected in many areas.
“We have become used to ever-rising school rolls in much of Aberdeenshire,” said Cllr Ford.
“The forecasts predict that to continue. But will it? There’s no sector of the north-east economy that’s looking likely generate significant additional employment that will more than compensate for other job losses. So what would be the driver for population increases that would cause on-going rising school rolls?
“Increasing school rolls have been a given in many parts of Aberdeenshire for many years, but that might be going to change – and our planning for school accommodation would then need to change too.”
Officers assured Cllr Ford that school roll forecasts are kept under constant review.
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