Claims new school will have less green space
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PARENTS have expressed their dismay at plans which will lead to a new primary school in Wick having 50 per cent less green space than what already exists at one of the schools which is due to be merged.
Councillors are disappointed they were not consulted about the reduced size of green areas at the new North Primary, which will amount to only half of what is currently available at Hillhead school.
The plans, drawn up last month, were only seen by Wick councillors Gail Ross and Bill Fernie on Monday.
They have both voiced their disapproval, saying they do not compare to the original designs and have requested urgent talks with officials in Inverness tomorrow.
Mrs Ross is not aware of the reasoning behind the new designs and has demanded answers.
She said pupils deserved better than what was being offered and would work to see more green space provided.
"I got first sight of these plans on Monday morning and I was surprised changes have been made," she said.
"I’m disappointed there seems to be a distinct lack of green space for the children to play on and I have some reservations about the safe routes to school.
"The plans seem to have thrown up more questions than they answer and there are a number of other issues that need to be addressed.
"I have requested a meeting on Thursday with officials in Inverness to discuss the way forward."
She added: "I would be surprised if budget pressures were to blame for the changes.
"The council has made the money available, plans were agreed that were within budget and I am yet to be convinced that there was any need for change.
"This school, along with the 3-18 campus [at the new Wick High], is to last for the next 50 or so years and we have to get it right.
"This school has to be the best we can give our children and our community and I will be doing my utmost to ensure this happens.
"These plans haven’t been seen by the planning department yet – until the school is actually built, improvements to the design can still and will be made."
The new primary will be built on the playing fields of the North school with the existing primary school being demolished and turned into a car park.
Speaking at a meeting of Wick community council on Monday night, secretary Joanna Coghill read a letter from parent council member Fiona Taylor who said parents were furious, claiming there would not be enough green space to hold a sports day.
The letter stated the plans, which were dated August 7, were made to save on the overall costs as well as make the building more energy efficient.
The new school will have an all-weather multi-use games area which will be covered with synthetic grass but, it is claimed, it will not be big enough for an entire football pitch.
The letter said as part of the national physical activity strategy by the Scottish Government, it was essential children were offered enough space to play football or hold a sports day.
Parents believe given the restricted green space being planned, it will be difficult to do.
Highland Council’s head of support services, Ron Mackenzie, said extensive discussions had taken place between the school design team and parent councils from the existing schools.
He said the new North school would provide a large play area of different surfaces and he would be putting this fact towards councillors during their meeting.
"We looked again at the school configuration and have actually provided more green space from the original plans by double banking the classrooms," he said.
"What we’ve got is a mixture of green space and other play areas which we will demonstrate to the Wick councillors that there is a lot of space at the new campus.
"In recognition of the Caithness climate we’ve created more sheltered space which will include an enclosed courtyard and other hard-standing surface play areas.
"A meeting was held in Wick last week where there was a healthy debate of those in favour of lots of grass and those in favour of mixed-type areas.
"During the meetings with councillors, who are concerned about green playing space, I will explain the plans about the amount of playing space at the new school and equate it to the area of green space at Hillhead Primary School."
The new primary school, which will have capacity for 387 pupils, will consist of 14 classrooms, two art rooms, two nursery rooms, a dining area, games hall, an outdoor multi-use games area and special needs facilities.
The application is set to be submitted to planners later this month.