Controversial AHS proposal goes to planning committee

The new Anderson High School will reach a major milestone in its development next week when the council’s flagship project comes under scrutiny by planning committee members.

A detailed report on the school and halls of residence is due to go before members on Monday afternoon.

Controversial plans for the relocation of the emergency helicopter landing pad, which only opened at Clickimin in 2010, will also be outlined to the committee.

Planning officials are recommending approval for the three-storey school, which will be capable of holding 1,180 pupils. The plans also incorporate a brand new ASN department, currently at the Gressy Loan, and halls of residence.

The main entry will be made via a new roundabout at the north end of the site, leading to a main car park with 147 spaces and a coach drop-off with room for 15 buses.

However, next week’s meeting – which will take the form of a hearing, which will give objectors the chance to air their views – may not entirely be plain-sailing.

Fourteen letters of objection have been received by the council along with two petitions. Many concerns focus on the loss of the popular campsite which has been closed to make way for the school.

Some believe the school development could have been repositioned to allow the visitor attraction to continue.

Objectors believe a new, fully functioning campsite should be provided as a “pre-requisite” condition prior to the school being granted.

Concerns have also been expressed about the proposed repositioning of the helicopter landing pad.

Other objections include:
• A loss of amenity in the Clickimin Loch and Westerloch areas.
• The school having to rely on the Clickimin Leisure Centre.
• An “adverse impact” on the Clickimin Broch, with the school having an “overbearing” presence in the area.

SIC director of children’s services Helen Budge welcomed the project going to planning.

“What we have done is submit an application for planning and a report is going to committee next week,” she said.

“The halls of residence are along the back of where the rugby pitch currently is, and we are looking at the new school being on the site that was known as the campsite.

“We’re looking at the building being three storeys with the different departments on the certain storeys and we’re delighted that it also incorporates the additional support needs unit that is currently in Gressy Loan. This is within the building so it is very much an integrated school with all the young folk being in the one building.”

Meanwhile, the price of the new development – anticipated at £42 million – is expected to be settled when the council reaches financial closure, either late this year or early in 2015.

The authority should also soon be in a position to confirm when the new Anderson High will be completed.

Last month the organisation behind the development, Hub North Scotland, responded to reports that a leaked document from main contractor Miller Construction suggested the development would not be completed until April 2017 – eight months after the August 2016 date previously highlighted.

“The price is something that obviously we won’t finalise until financial close which is looking to be the end of this year beginning of next year,” Mrs Budge added.

“We have a draft programme and we are looking at the procurement side of. So very shortly we would be able to confirm better what the financial close will be and also what the completion date will be.

“This is a big step we’re looking at here with this application going to planning and we will take one step at a time.”


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