Site at Cromleybank given top marks

THE controversial debate over the siting of a new Ellon Academy has been a hot topic for many months - however, the end is finally in sight after Cromleybank East was recommended at the Formartine Area Committee meeting on Tuesday.

All Members agreed on the site but with reservations from two councillors who have supported the Balmacassie option from the onset.

Planning Policy Team Leader Piers Blaxter presented the options to the committee, with three being discounted early on. Waterton could only be achieved at residential value, Cromleybank West was undeliverable due to the time scale and Cromleybank South didn’t meet the Education, Learning and Leisure requirements.

The process of elimination left two sites at Cromleybank East and one at Balmacassie - which had been offered for free by farmers Ian Ross and Stuart Davidson, as they wanted to “give something back to the town.”

Head of Service, Education, Learning and Leisure Wilf Weir said: “The issue with the Balmacassie site is that is does not feature in the Local Development Plan, and the planning issues make it less desirable than the other sites.”

The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) require that the project be on site by January 2013 with £22,673,000 allocated for the secondary school, along with £23,880,000 worth of funding from Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillor Rob Merson said: “Firstly I would like to compliment the officers for the huge amount of analysis that has gone into the process - local members have been involved as much as possible down the line and have attended stakeholder meetings.

“Personally I believe we have now arrived at the best option for a site. Timing could have been improved but I am very happy with the recommendation and glad to support it.”

Councillor Isobel Davidson said: “I have supported the Balmacassie site from the start. However we have gone through a very thorough assessment procedure and can accept this has been done in wide consultation.

“I am more satisfied with Cromleybank East since I understand that a bridge will come through pretty early in the development. On balance, I will support this site.”

Councillor Gillian Owen said: “The issue of the new Ellon Academy has to be one of the most crucial decisions that I am being asked to take.

This decision is vital for Ellon. To the outside world and me at times, the process could be seen to have been dysfunctional, all be it the input from Officers and others has been tremendous.”

“Having attended no end of meetings, and listened to all sorts of information from all over the place, I find it hard to support this recommendation when the whole purpose of building a new Academy is for the children of Ellon, yet the site at Cromleybank has no children near it. It is currently in the middle of nowhere!”

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