Portlethen “forgotten” by Aberdeenshire Council

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RESIDENTS in Portlethen claimed at a public meeting last week that they had been forgotten about after Aberdeenshire Council announced last year that they had no plans to build a promised new primary school in the town.

Officials from the education, planning and legal departments of Aberdeenshire Council attended the meeting at Portlethen Academy last Thursday evening to take part in a a question and answer session attended by more than 80 concerned residents, who are worried about the future of school provision in the area.

Most concerns centred around whether a new school would be built eventually, and how the existing primary schools in Portlethen would cope in the meantime.

Head of Aberdeenshire Council’s education services Wilf Weir said: “We have significantly invested in the two existing schools and will continue to do so.”

But others raised the question of whether any community facilities would be provided for residents at Hillside, as there are currently none.

North Kincardine Councillor Alistair Bews said: “Why can’t the Planning Gain money already received be used to build community facilities at Hillside?

“Portlethen is the town that Aberdeenshire Council forgot. We have received nothing that we have been promised.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Property Services, Allan Whyte, said: “The site for the school is still available and there is a possibility that recreational facilities may be given to the community by the Stewart Milne Group under the planning gain scheme.”

The local authority hope to form a representative group made up of volunteers who can keep up a dialogue between the council and worried residents.

Community council chairman Ron Sharp said that while the meeting had still left issues unresolved, a representative group could be the best outcome.

He said: “I felt that a lot of specific issues weren’t dealt with, and people were confused as to which official to direct each question to. I would hope that a representative committee would be a psoitive way forward at this stage.”

Hillside resident Stephen Harvey said: “I think the general feeling from the meeting was one of further frustration. Too many times our questions still remained unanswered, they seemed to have a set script and didn’t want to deviate too far from it.

“However the fact the council have suggested setting up a ‘working group’ gives us a further opportunity to continue what will hopefully be meaningful dialogue.

“The council have admitted that it will take at least two and a half years from the date of decision to build the school. Even now, that will be too late for the school pupils who will be crammed into the existing schools.”

Labour candidate for the area Alison Evison said: “The schools’ consultation meeting held in Portlethen on Thursday did not provide an answer to the lack of facilities at Hillside.

“However there is land at Hillside which could be made available by Stewart Milne Homes for the educational and recreational use of the community, once, it is said, the trigger point of 400 new houses has been reached.

“It would seem that the way forward would be for this land to be acquired as soon as possible by Aberdeenshire Council and used in the short term for a community hall and games pitch.

“These facilities could ultimately form part of a new school, when that eventually becomes accepted as a requirement for the area. In the short-term they could be used for a pre-school group and other community education activities.

“A games pitch is much needed by the children and young people in the area who currently play football in very dangerous locations along the side of roads.”