Tempers flare over new academy proposals

TEMPERS flared at Ellon Community Council on Monday night as members hit out at the latest change to plans for the town’s new academy.

The new plans - unveiled at a meeting between stakeholders and planners - showed that the £50million school had been moved to a site noticeably to the south of the site previously agreed upon.

Planners have asserted that this follows complaints about a possible overlap between the school grounds and the Ythan floodplain.

However, community councillors reacted angrily to what they described as an “undemocratic” move which had been pushed forward without stakeholder consultation.

Speaking at the council’s meeting, community councillor Mark Grant said: “There have been hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on consultations and drawing up plans, and this new site has been parachuted in. People are thinking that the way this has been done is an absolutely shambles.”

Fellow community councillor Alasdair Mcrae added: “Shambles isn’t a strong enough word.”

Chairperson Moira Muir said that while she was angry that stakeholders hadn’t been consulted, she urged other community councillors to look at the plans which will be put on public display on June 8 at the present Academy.

“Ellon is going to get a fantastic new academy on a huge site. Absolutely huge,” she said. “It looks like our academy will be the best in Scotland.”

Community councillor Tim Canning raised concerns that planners were ‘railroading’ the community council, with an unspoken threat that any delay in the planning process at this stage would risk the loss of millions of pounds worth of Scottish Government funding, which is conditional on planning deadlines being met.

Others feared that the new location meant even further distances for the town’s children to walk.

Aberdeenshire councillor Isobel Davidson defended the planners’ move, however, saying that the difference between the agreed site and the adjusted one wasn’t particularly big and had, in any case, been chosen in response to public concerns about the school’s playing fields lying in the Ythan floodplain.

“It really is a very small change,” she said. “Members of the community, and the community council, asked that no part of the school or grounds should be on the floodplain, so it had to move back a little to ensure this was the case.

“I have never been very keen on a site on the other side of the river from the main part of Ellon, but it was approved through a democratic process.”

Cllr Rob Merson agreed, saying: “The site which was unanimously approved by the Formartine Area Committee on December 7 is largely what is before us. We have already considered, consulted and conferred on the site options for months now.

“While I appreciate that there is no site available which will please everybody, the decision on the preferred site has already been made, and I am still happy to support it as the optimal available site for the new academy. There is nothing to be gained from re-visiting that decision - and everything to lose.”

Cllr Gillian Owen said that members of the public would have one more opportunity for input, at the formal unveiling of plans on June 8.

“The process we have followed appears to have been dysfunctional, but all residents will have a chance to air their views, on the 8th of June and I hope they will grasp this once in a lifetime opportunity, to go and have a look and let their feelings be known,” she said.

In other community council matters, PC Sean Reynolds delivered news that a number of crimes had been committed in the town over the past two months, including a spate of minor vandalisms, driving offences, attempted thefts of diesel, and ten individuals who had been caught urinating in Bridge Street - including one female who was urinating and texting from her mobile.

PC Reynolds described the situation as “a personal bugbear.” He added that the police would monitor littering problems in the town.