THE REPLACEMENT Ellon Academy took another step towards completion this week, after local Councillors on the Formartine Area Committee agreed to recommend that Aberdeenshire Council adopt the proposal to relocate the school to a brand-new community campus at Cromleybank.
The school, which is being built by Aberdeenshire Council with the help of funding from the Scottish Government’s Scottish Future’s Trust, is due to open its doors in August 2015.
Councillors met to consider the responses which had been received during the consultation exercise into the closure of the existing school and the opening of the new building. They were given an overview of the project, as well as the opportunity to view several 3D artist’s impressions of the inside and the outside of the new school.
In addition to the school facility, Banff and Buchan College will also have its own facility as part of the campus. A new swimming pool will be built on the site, while a link across the river to the Meadows Sport Centre will allow the centre’s all-weather pitch to be refurbished for the benefit of both the school and the wider community.
While the Councillors present agreed that consultation exercise as a whole had been a good thing, scepticism was expressed as to why current procedures deemed it necessary to hold separate consultations to consider both the closing of the old school and the opening of the new.
Councillor Isobel Davidson said that she “very much welcomed” the new academy. She expressed her concern over the impact that moving the school away from its current site might have on the town centre, while acknowledging the “fantastic opportunities” which the school’s partnership with the Meadows Sport Centre could have for the town.
Councillor Rob Merson agreed, emphasising that the second consultation had been “surplus to requirements”, given that most concerns expressed had been about the site of the new academy rather than the closing of the old one. People would have had concerns to express regardless as to whichever site had eventually been chosen, he said. The process, he acknowledged, had however been “robust”, with everyone able to have their say.
Councillor Gillian Owen voiced a fear that with there no longer being a “huge lunchtime flux” into the town that the heart of the commmunity would be “ripped out”. Her concerns over transport arrangements did however prompt a reassurance from officers that certain issues still had to be considered by the planning process and that the council would be doing its best to ‘buffer’ remaining transport concerns.
Councillor Debra Storr acknowledged that the school was some distance away from the town centre, but pointed out that this was in part a result of the campus being bigger than the one it replaces and that it was important to make the best of it.
There was, she said, now a ‘challenge’ to get the ‘non-motorised’ connections right and to start making Ellon a cycle and pedestrian friendly town.
It was, she said, important to start working to embed that culture now, suggesting that a reduction in the speed limit on certain roads to 20mph would be the best thing which could be done to encourage more cycling to school.
Although the Area Committee has made its recommendation in favour of the project, aspects of the scheme still have to receive the formal approval next month of the Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning Committee, as well as at the April meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee.