WHILE ROAD CAMPAIGNERS in Elgin were celebrating following Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council there was a warning that another community could be up in arms over their local high school.
Plans for a much needed new senior school in Lossiemouth were revealed last year with the town just pipping Buckie as next in line for the £20million project.
The project, jointly funded by Moray Council and the Scottish Futures Trust, was to deliver not only a school but, as was the case at Elgin Academy and the current work to replace Elgin High School, would have seen new community sport and leisure facilities.
However, the uncertainty over just how much Scottish Government funding would be allocated to the project and the immediacy required over a Council decision on the scope of the school brought about a decision to pare back the project.
The council’s head of lifelong learning and sport, Graham Jarvis, confirmed that the Scottish Government funding offer was for the school alone – and that Moray Council would be required to meet the additional cost for a swimming pool and community centre. That, he explained, would come in at around £3million to £4million.
In addition, he pointed out the local authority would be expected to meet costs of around £4million in maintaining the new facilities.
On a day when Councillors felt obliged to commit an additional spend of over £3million to bring four primary schools in Elgin, Buckie, Forres and Lossiemouth up to scratch, that proved a hurdle too many – and councillors agreed to go ahead with the school project without a new community centre and swimming pool.
Local councillor John Cowe expressed his dismay over the decision and asked that alternative methods and funding be studied over the provision of a new community centre and swimming pool, pointing to the particular success in both – with the pool in particular drawing a long list of groups from throughout Moray booking up for sessions.
Councillor Cowe ventured that organisations such as the Lossiemouth Community Development Trust might find more success in raising funding for the project than Moray Council.
He found support from SNP councillor Gordon Leadbitter, who warned that there would be a “furious response” from the Lossiemouth community over the issue.
Councillor Leadbitter asked if a decision on the school build might be delayed until clarification is received over if financial support for the project might be extended to the community centre and pool – however, Mr Jarvis pointed out that the time taken to receive a decision would be such that the project would not meet its March 2020 date unless an immediate decision was taken.
Faced with the risk of losing the Scottish Futures Trust funding – which meets two-thirds of the cost of the school build – Councillors agreed to go ahead with the build of the school only, having received an assurance that this would, at least, include new indoor and outdoor sports facilities within the new school.