Community given more time for old Mearns campus

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Laurencekirk has been given more time to develop a business case for community use of the former Mearns Academy site and playing fields.

Councillors on the Policy & Resources Committee delayed a decision to market for sale the former Mearns Academy buildings including the leisure centre and playing fields until April 2016, providing time for the local development trust to deliver a robust business case and undertake full consultation with the local community.

The decision follows local pressure for the development of community facilities in Laurencekirk.

The former school site has lain empty for over 12 months since the new £28million school was opened.

Chair of Policy and Resources Committee Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “We are listening to local views and are very aware that there is a lot of interest and enthusiasm for identifying the best use of the site for the benefit of the community.

“We are keen to give the community an appropriate amount of time to turn their ideas into something that can be delivered and sustained in the long-term.

“It should be based on local need, and identify potential funding streams as part of that process. We’re open to their ideas and hope that this delay in marketing the site will give them the time they need to turn their ideas into a robust business case.”

Vice Chairman of the Mearns Community Council Jim Stuart said he is delighted that Laurencekirk has been given “a fighting chance” to develop a case.

He said: “The most important thing is that it’s a chance for the community to determine its own destiny.

“While the timescales are still a bit tighter than we would have liked we’re happy to have been given a fighting chance.

“The next step will be the Charrette coming in, who are paid for by the Scottish Government, who will help the community with a development plan, that will hopefully be in the next few weeks.”

Local councillor Jean Dick also added how happy she was with the councils decison.

She said: “I’m really very pleased that the administration has listened to the community on this issue.

“My main concern has always been with the playing fields.

“One of the stipulations from the Scottish Futures Trust was that the playing fields at the news school had to be like for like, which so far isn’t the case.

“Hopefully they can resolve this soon and have success with the Charrette.”