THE new Mearns Academy moved one step closer to fruition this week as councillors gave their backing to the latest phase of the development.
Work on the £25 million replacement school at Laurencekirk, which will cater for 840 pupils with potential for expansion, is scheduled to begin in June next year, and be completed by July 2014.
A formal planning application is expected to be submitted this month.
Members of the Kincardine and Mearns area committee were updated on Tuesday regarding the design of the building and the provision of community facilities.
Consultation exercises held earlier this year revealed that there were concerns among Laurencekirk residents about moving existing community facilities out of the town centre and in to the new school, which will be situated across the road from the existing academy.
A petition with more than 900 signatures called for the existing Mearns Community Centre to remain open. Officials have said that the age and condition of the community center means it could not be extended to cope with the demands of the anticipated growth in the population of Laurencekirk.
Aberdeenshire Provost Bill Howatson called the project “a historic step forward and iconic building for the Mearns.”
But he said that a clear timetable and implementation plan would have to be established for accommodating centre users in council owned facilities in the town. He added: “We must give people some assurance that we are are willing to listen to their suggestions. There is a growing assumption that the community center will be abandoned which is a sensitive issue and this needs to be handled sensitively.”
Mearns Councillor George Carr said that the council and officials needed to take their time over the planning of the school and its provision of community facilities. He said: “We need to take our time and get it right. We need to continue the conultation process so that we can get the best outcome for everyone.
“We have to be pro-active in mitigating the concerns of the community which have rightly been articulated. Thi area needs more work before we go forward.”
But he added that he was impressed with the plans for the new school, saying: “This is a very exciting project for Laurencekirk and I commend the architects for their vision and for doing their best to accommodate everyone’s needs. I am also glad to see that there will be room for expansion as Laurencekirk expands.”