We want a swimming pool in Laurencekirk

Work is due to begin on the new Mearns Academy community campus this summer, with completion by summer 2014, but already locals are gathering themselves to campaign to have a swimming pool added to the school at a later date.

Alan Mowat told Mearns Community Council that he had attended a recent Parent Council meeting at which the question “Why are we not having a swimming pool?” was asked.

“Those of us who campaigned for a new school some years ago were told that we would not get a swimming pool because of the running costs.

“We now learn that the new Ellon Academy is getting a nice new pool and that wound us up a bit.

“We are told that the Scottish Futures Trust will only finance like for like. We do not have a pool at the moment but Ellon do, but that still does not seem quite right to me.

“We are a bit aggrieved and it is likely that we will start up a campaign.

“In an effort to get some leverage we did some digging and we find that we are the only community in Aberdeenshire, per head of population, that does not have a swimming pool.”

Chairman Jim Stuart backed Mr Mowat saying it was a valid criticism.

Councillor George Carr said that it was correct to say that Ellon had a pool before. He added that Banff and Buchan College and NHS Grampian were also making financial contributions to the Ellon project.

“The case has been made for a pool in Laurencekirk and the need has been clearly identified.

“Space has been allocated withing the Mearns Academy plans, so we can get a pool built in the future.

“There will be a new council at the end of this week and the new administration will no doubt carry out a review of the capital plan and there will be the opportunity for input.

“Nothing will happen immediately, but it would be good to get a campaign going and it could be achievable.

“There are going to be new housing developments in the area and planning gain money. We could also put our views forward to the planning gain officers.”

Mr Stuart said that 800 houses were proposed for Laurencekirk, but planning gain would not pay for everything.

“We are looking for a grade-separated junction, a link road to the west of Laurencekirk, a new primary school and now a swimming pool. I think the developers will be at strangulation point.”

Councillor Carr said that planning gain was never designed to solve existing problems. It was supposed to offset things that might arise from the building of new houses.

“A new junction is the responsibility of the Scottish Government and I think that is now appreciated. Planning gain would never cover the cost of a junction.”

Medieval remains have been found during the excavation of the site of the new Mearns Academy but there have been assurances that there will be no delays.

Councillor Carr said: “It has been reported, but it will no affect the timetable for the new-build.”