Call for campus access issues to be addressed

ANY DECISION about access to the new Forfar Academy Community campus should be addressed now.

As members of Angus Council’s education committee considered a report on an update of the new £33.6m school and community hub on the site at Forfar Academy on Thursday, Angus councillor Glennis Middleton urged council officers to take into consideration the long-suffering residents of Taylor Street when access issues were being considered.

She told the meeting: “I very much welcome this report and see it as a stride forward.

“As part of the community engagement and consultation, can I ask if any thought has been given to where the entrance and exits will be at the new Academy and community sports facility.

“There is some concern among residents in Taylor Street that access would continue to be taken from Taylor Street. The residents of Taylor Street are, by and large, needing a break.

“By its very nature a community facility will have more people going to use it and I would like to know if any thought has been given to that.”

Council officer Craig Clement gave his assurances that travel to and from the new campus, either in a vehicle or on foot, would be given “detailed consideration” during the consultation process and that discussions would be linked with public transport.

Members agreed to instruct the Director of Education to prepare a further report on the outcomes of this engagement/consultation exercise, including the identification of specific proposals on the scope for the community campus facilities and note the financial implications.

The council has already submitted a successful bid for Scottish Government funding for the project to replace the current school, which is recognised as being in a poor condition and was identified as Angus Council’s top secondary school estate priority since both condition and suitability ratings were classified as poor.

Members agreed to undertake consultation with the people of Forfar and the surrounding area on a proposal to incorporate leisure facilities, including a new swimming pool, as part of the development.

The community engagement exercise will take place during February and will involve staff, pupils, parents/carers and residents of Forfar.

The views expressed during this exercise will inform decisions about which facilities are to be incorporated on this site, and to identify opportunities to work in partnership with the local community.

The council’s education spokesperson Councillor Sheena Welsh said: “The council has recognised that a new school building is needed at Forfar Academy, which could incorporate a community campus with leisure facilities.

“We now need the people of Forfar and the surrounding area to share their views on this proposal with us, and to work with us in developing first class educational and recreational facilities for the town.”

The £33.6m community campus would be located on the existing Forfar Academy site, and could be constructed by spring 2017.

Commenting on access issues at the new campus, Mrs Isobel Ross, chairman of Forfar Community Council said: “This is a very necessary consideration at this stage - that access should not be from Taylor Street.

“I have had several people from that area already speaking to me about it and I have promised them I would take their views forward.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to have access off Taylor Street - it should be a spanking new access off the Kirriemuir Road.

“The plans for the school encompasses a leisure centre and other leisure facilities including a swimming pool; access almost 24/7 will be required to make it viable. This is something that should be looked at now before any buildings or planning is looked at.

“This could be a great asset and opportunity for the town if it is handled properly.”

In his report to council on Thursday, education director Neil Logue said informal dialogue with Forfar Academy staff, as well as members of the Forfar community planning team and educational development service staff, had already taken place.

Informal discussions have also taken place with other partners including Angus College and NHS Tayside.

He revealed the ambitious timescale for the project which could commence within 12 to 18 months from the date of project approval.

The potential timetable sees construction work on the new school being in August 2014, with pupils migrating to the new school in August 2016 and the construction works (demolition of old school and external works) commencing in October 2016, in time for project completion in April 2017.

Mr Logue added: “It should be noted that these are extremely ambitious timescales which will only be achieved by working in partnership with the school and the wider community.”

It is estimated the cost of the project will be in the region of £33m to £34 million with Angus Council’s contribution being £15 million,