Academy ‘remains on track’

Aberdeenshire Council has said that plans to build brand-new academies to replace the current buildings at Ellon and Mearns remain on track, after a meeting was held earlier this week with the Scottish Government body which is set to provide the main share of the funding.

A discussion on the contract for the construction of Ellon Academy which was scheduled for last month’s meeting of the Formartine Area Committee was withdrawn from the meeting agenda, after a letter was received from the Scottish Futures Trust which the Council said it needed to consider its response to. However, following a meeting with the Scottish Futures Trust which was described as ‘useful’, the council said it had received ‘clarification’ of the Trust’s position, and was committed to engaging in ‘an on-going dialogue throughout the tender and construction process for the new schools’.

It has emerged that less funding than previously thought will be made available to the council from the SFT to build the schools. However, the council says it remains confident that plans for the schools will continue unchanged, citing market conditions and the likelihood that the schools can be delivered at a lower cost thanks to the current economic situation and ‘improved purchasing power’.

Council Leader Anne Robertson said she was pleased with the progress which had been made at the meeting.

“We remain absolutely committed to the building of these two new schools”, she said. “Today’s meeting was a useful opportunity to meet the Scottish Futures Trust and clarify some of the issues. We will continue with our discussions as the projects move forwards.”

The Ellon Academy Community Campus is planned to open in August 2015. A series of stakeholder meetings have already been held with members of the Ellon community and a major public consultation exercise is just ending about the proposals. The council will shortly begin the next phase of the project, which includes finalising the design of the facilities, planning application and tendering process.

A site for the new 840-pupil Mearns Academy in Laurencekirk has also been agreed and negotiations with the landowner are continuing. In addition to teaching areas and community space, the school will include a range of sports facilities, including a four-court games hall, gym, fitness suite and sports pitches. Subject to the approval of planning permission, work on the new school is scheduled to begin in June next year.