THE NEW HIGH School in Lossiemouth will go ahead with the inclusion of a swimming pool – despite opposition from the chair and vice-chair of the children and young people’s services committee.
Councillors were presented with three options for the future of the new school, which is being paid for by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Futures Trust and Moray Council.
Director of Education and Social Care, Laurence Findlay, explained to councillors that clarification had now been received verbally from the SFT that they would, in part, fund a new swimming pool alongside community facilities and a library in the new school.
That left the local authority to make a decision of building with the pool, which would see an additional cost of £800,000 being incurred by the Council, or build without the pool.
Both options also included an increased capacity for the new school of 800, which takes account of an increase in local population as a result of 250 new homes being built and an increase in personnel at RAF Lossiemouth of over 400 men and women.
A compromise proposal was to delay the decision until the end of this year – but that would itself incur additional costs of around £200,000 as two options would need to be planned.
Lossiemouth based councillor John Cowe explained in detail the difficult decision that faced the Council, pointing out that the local authorities total contribution to the project amounted to around 45% of the cost – coming at a time when the region was under intense budgetary pressure.
He read a letter from the OC Base Support at RAF Lossiemouth, in which it was made clear that the RAF could not be involved in any investment outside the base – but remained very committed to supporting facilities within the town and in particular a new pool, which was required by the RAF for training needs.
Cllr Cowe said: “He cannot make guarantees but if a new pool met RAF requirements then they would continue to use it at an increased level given then it would be highly likely they would use it to a greater degree.”
Cllr Cowe added that “it made no sense” to delay the decision and he proposed the school should be built for 800 pupils with a swimming pool, a proposal that was seconded by Councillor Douglas Ross, who said that he was worried for a while during Cllr Cowe’s statement that he was not going to make what was “the correct and sensible proposal”.
Support came from Elgin councillor Graham Leadbitter, who said: “It is clear from the paper and other decisions taken on new homes and RAF expansion that we need to build school for 800.
“Financial risk is not building something that is not for purpose. In terms of pool, Lossiemouth is one of the best we have, large number of users – and there is no information on where they would go if there was no pool. Facilities need to be provided and there are ways of mitigating the cost through increased income generated by the new facility.”
However, there was opposition to the pool from the chair of the Children and Young People’s Services committee, Councillor Anne Skene, who said that the school itself was required and saw no need to build the pool. Her line was agreed by her committee vice-chair and former teacher, Councillor George Alexander.
Ultimately the weight of opinion came down firmly in favour of the school being created with a swimming pool, with members voting in favour by 18 votes to seven.
Following the meeting Councillor Ross said: “We heard at the meeting how popular and well used the swimming pool is in Lossiemouth. All the options we were presented with had risks but I believe we took the right decision to press ahead with this project.
“People who use this facility needed the assurance that there is a commitment for a new swimming pool in Lossiemouth and constructing it as part of the new build project along with the High School offers the best possible deal.
“We can now plan for a new school, library and swimming pool and I know this will be welcomed by the local community.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead also welcome the decision last night. Mr Lochhead had met with the Chief Executive of Moray Council on Tuesday, saying that he had a positive discussion – and now was pleased that any uncertainty surround the school bid was laid to one side.
He said: “After my positive discussions with the Council’s Chief Executive this week, I’m really pleased that the uncertainty surrounding the new school, and whether it will include a replacement swimming pool or not, appears to have been removed.
“With the pool being one of the most popular in Moray, I think everyone will agree that it is the right decision for the school plans to include a replacement, particularly at a time when plans are in place for expansion in the town and with RAF Lossiemouth expected to benefit from new investment.
“I hope that everyone involved in building the new High School and the wider community partners will continue to work together to deliver a fantastic facility that will benefit the whole town and that people in Lossiemouth can look forward to enjoying.”
The cost of the new school and swimming pool is estimated at £31million, with the Scottish Government paying £17.3million via the Scottish Futures Trust.
The existing high school dates from the late 1970s and it was announced earlier this year that it was to be replaced as part of the final phase of the national Schools for the Future programme.