Aberdeenshire Council approves merger and relocation of Peterhead primary schools

Plans to close and merge two Aberdeenshire schools has received backing from councillors despite objections from parents.

By Kirstie Topp, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 3:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 3:22 pm
The council has decided the two schools will merge, and new state-of-the-art premises will be built at Peterhead Community Campus.
The council has decided the two schools will merge, and new state-of-the-art premises will be built at Peterhead Community Campus.

The outcomes of a formal consultation regarding the merger of Dales Park and Meethill in Peterhead was discussed at a meeting of full council on Thursday, September 23.

The matter had previously been considered by the Buchan area committee and education and children’s services committee earlier this year.

Aberdeenshire Council had proposed the two schools be merged and relocated to create a modern state-of-the-art learning facility at the new Peterhead Community Campus at Kinmundy.

A new Peterhead Academy and Anna Ritchie School will also be located on the campus site.

The new campus will be the first in Aberdeenshire to have primary, secondary and special education provision on one site and it is anticipated that the facility will welcome pupils from August 2025.

Director of education and children’s services, Laurence Findlay, told councillors that the campus project was a “once in a generation opportunity for Peterhead”.

He noted that concerns had been raised by parents about road safety with many voicing their worries that children would have to cross the busy Meethill Road to get to the campus.

However he said that council officers are planning to work with parents to look at ways to “address and alleviate” concerns.

Other consultation participants felt that the campus site was located too far for children to walk to while some believed that the two schools should remain and be upgraded instead.

Chairwoman of the education and children’s services committee, councillor Gillian Owen, said the campus project was of “strategic importance” to Aberdeenshire and would provide “educational benefit for the Peterhead community for generations to come”.

Chairman of the Buchan Area Committee, Councillor Norman Smith, supported the plan and said: “The advantages of this proposal are clear, our young people deserve to be educated in buildings which are modern, well designed, innovative and fit for purpose for delivery of a 21st century curriculum. This state-of-the-art campus will provide exactly this for our young people and they deserve nothing less.”

Peterhead North and Rattray councillor Dianne Beagrie also backed the proposal and said: “I have always campaigned for a new Peterhead Academy and now to see this wider campus development taking place in the town is amazing and beyond what I ever could have imagined.

“A campus providing education for three to 18-year-olds including the specialist SEN provision for our young people with complex needs is a major undertaking for this council and something we should be proud to champion.”

However Peterhead South and Cruden Councillor Stephen Calder moved an amendment to retain Meethill School and move Dales Park to the new campus.

He explained: “It is clear from all the consultations and representations from parents, groups, staff and members of the Dales Park and Meethill communities that it’s a wish of Dales Park to become part of the new community campus. Equally it is the overwhelming wish of the Meethill community that the merger and transfer of their school shouldn’t take place.”

Councillor Calder noted that concerns had been raised regarding increased travel distance, road safety, the size of the campus and a loss of sense of community.

He added: “We have conducted the engagement process and the result is quite clear, the communities have spoken and have indicated clearly their preference for Meethill School to remain where it is and for Dales Park School to become part of the new Kinmundy Road campus.”

Peterhead North and Rattray councillor Anne Allan seconded the amendment and said: “A school is not just a place that children go to learn but it’s the hub of the local area. The community of Meethill have been engaged with, they’ve been consulted and they have sent us a very clear message that they highly value that sense of community and that they wish to keep their school and all that it means within their community.”

The matter went to a vote with 43 members in favour of the motion and 21 in support of the amendment.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​