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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
School playing field plan slammed
By Doug Kennedy
BBC News Online Scotland

The proposed new school
The proposed new school has caused controversy
Campaigners angry at plans to rebuild a Highland school on playing fields have hit out at a Scottish Executive decision not to block the project.

The plans for a new 15m academy in Dingwall, Ross-shire, had been under consideration by the executive.

But ministers have now cleared it back to Highland Council, on the condition it passes a flood risk assessment.

Opponents claim the move to build the school on a flood plain is a recipe for disaster as well as compromising one of the town's biggest open spaces.

The executive has placed a condition that the council must have clearance from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and inform ministers of its backing before progressing.

I've studied the geology and the climatology and with a high water table and climate change, I can foresee the circumstances where the school has difficulty running
Ken MacNab
Former education director
An executive spokesman said ministers have issued a direction requiring Highland Council to notify them should Sepa advise against the grant of planning permission, or recommend further conditions.

Sepa said it had requested more information from the council before making a decision but that it was content with the proposals and did not foresee any significant obstacles to the application.

Local campaign group Keep off the Grass said it was disappointed by the move.

The current Dingwall Academy sits at the top of a bank above the school's playing fields.

The new school, part of a major public private partnership deal with consortium Alpha Schools, will be built below the current academy, which will then be demolished.

Keep off the Grass member and former education director with the council, Ian MacNab, believes the scheme could bring significant problems.

Detailed application

Mr MacNab was involved in constructing the Dingwall Leisure Centre, which was built on the same level as the proposed school.

He said: "It did flood badly when the water tables were high.

"I've studied the geology and the climatology and with a high water table and climate change, I can foresee the circumstances where the school has difficulty running.

"I know the problems involved."

However, Highland Council dismissed the flooding concerns.

I would ask the community to get behind the school for current and future generations, so that children can be educated in a 21st century environment, rather than the currently unacceptable conditions
Bruce Robertson
Highland Council Director of Education
Director of Education Bruce Robertson said he was delighted by the decision and that the council would now progress to a detailed planning application.

Mr Robertson said: "Any issues the executive have raised with us, in relation to Sepa, will be picked up in that detailed planning application.

"We will work through the detail with Alpha, assess the bid, the technical specifications and move to a detailed plan by the autumn."

He insisted that neither the council nor the private sector consortium would have presented the bid had they not felt they could address any conditions Sepa may require.

He added: "I would ask the community to get behind the school for current and future generations, so that children can be educated in a 21st century environment, rather than the current unacceptable conditions."


SEE ALSO:
More schools get private finance
01 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Schools work 'a missed chance'
25 May 04  |  Scotland
School closure plans spark row
19 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Empty desks in Scots classrooms
22 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Council's schools plan criticised
13 Jan 04  |  Scotland


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