Portlethen residents push for way forward with schools issue

HILLSIDE residents in Portlethen have backed plans to create a representative group in the area to continue putting pressure on Aberdeenshire Council for a new school.

Plans to create a group, which would be made up of Hillside residents as well as council representatives and parents and teachers from Portlethen’s existing schools, were first suggested by council officials at a public meeting in February, but since then no details have been finalised.

A third school had been promised to residents of Portlethen as part of a huge housing development at Hillside, but Aberdeenshire Council have since announced that any plans for a new school for the town have been put on hold.

Discussing the issue at the Portlethen and District community council meeting on Tuesday evening, chairman Ron Sharp confirmed that he had spoken with Aberdeenshire Council area manager Willie Munro, who hopes to have a group up and running within the next few weeks.

He added: “I feel that getting this group up and running would be the best way forward, and the community council are willing to help get things moving. I don’t feel that it would be beneficial to have another public meeting at this time, as nothing has changed.

“Anyone who has shown an interest in becoming part of the representative group should be contacted in the next few weeks to set something up. This is the most important route to take as it will mean that we will be taken more seriously and will be getting a steady stream of information right from the horses mouth.

“This is your community and you have a right to fight for it. The community council can’t give you the answers that you want, but we can provide you with a platform. I think a specific working group to tackle this issue is the way forward.”

But members of the public at the meeting called for a firmer timescale, expressing concerns that the process was taking too long.

One Portlethen resident said: “I think that Aberdeenshire Council are deliberately giving out confusing and conflicting information to buy time, as they have probably already decided not to build the school at all. We need to get this group up and running as soon as possible. We need to keep putting pressure on them and do as much as we possibly can.”

Another resident added: “The next step forward in this process has to be the representative group, but we need to identify a clearer timescale so that it will give a clearer forum for the folk concerned to get answers.”

John Low, who was at the meeting as a representative of developers Stewart Milne Group, encouraged residents to press on with the forming of a group to deal with the issues. He said: “I would encourage people to form a resident’s association. It will give you a voice to correspond either with the council or Stewart Milne Group, and you will get more consistent information.”

Mr Low also confirmed that over three quarters of a million pounds have been paid to Aberdeenshire Council by Stewart Milne to date for community facilities and education provision in the Portlethen area, with the final figure expected to reach more than £2 million. But some community councillors said that they were disappointed that this money is currently being used for maintenance and repairs at the town’s existing schools, rather than providing community facilties on the other side of the A90 for Hillside residents.

One community councillor said: “If the Stewart MIlne Group are providing a seven figure sum for planning gain, it should be used for additional provision, rather than maintenance, which should be carried out anyway.”

Community councillor Dorothy Main, who lives at Hillside, said that the community felt “let down” by the lack of community facilities at the new development.

She said: “We were promised retail areas and a school with community and leisure facilities, and that promise is what sold the houses. People feel let down. Even a temporary portacabin could be used on the land set aside for the school for some kind of community facility. All of these people living in Hillside need somewhere to go and something to do. At the moment all they have is their house and the pavement outside.”