Row over where to locate £55m Galashiels community campus is as 'toxic as Brexit'

Heated debate around the future location of a new £55m community school campus in Galashiels has become as ‘toxic as Brexit and Scottish Independence’, a Borders councillor has warned.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 6th May 2021, 10:41 am
Scott Park. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Scott Park. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Members of Galashiels Community Council last night, Wednesday, May 5, gave near-unanimous support to the building of the campus in Scott Park.

That option has the support of the local authority ahead of other possibilities, including building it on the existing school site.

A public consultation over the various options has just closed and the results of that are eagerly awaited.

At last night’s zoom meeting, Dr Stuart Gordon a chartered civil engineer who has campaigned to protect the park, labelled the community council’s support for the preferred council option as “incredible and disappointing”.

He said: "I have repeatedly submitted an alternative option for building on the pitches which has not been replied to by the council. I have submitted it five times since the 29th of January, a well-considered option which could easily be developed into a viable solution to save Scott Park.

"In my opinion the community council is complicit here in wanting to build a one hectare footprint building on the best open green space that Gala has.”

He asked if members would support a ‘viable option’ that retained the campus on the existing school site and inquired as to what information they had based their individual decisions on.

Scottish Borders councillor Sandy Aitchison responded in defence of the community councillors, saying: “These are reasonable people who have come to a sensible decision in their eyes. There has been no arm-twisting or persuasion. I suggest that Dr Gordon is out of order for asking them to justify by what means they came to their decision.”

Councillor Euan Jardine said the conversation around the school site was becoming “more and more toxic”.

He added: “That should not be happening when we are talking about the future provision for our young people and the community, it should not becoming toxic. It’s becoming like Brexit and Scottish independence. This is about Galashiels wanting a new school – it should not becoming toxic.

"There are people who are scared to come out in support of building on the park site in case they get blasted. I’ve been blasted online at the weekend. To me that is not on.”

Earlier in the meeting, community council chair Judith Cleghorn expressed support for option 3, to build on part of the park, with the proviso that the future of the town’s Focus Centre had still to be clarified.

She said: “We are not experts and we have to trust the word of those that are. We have to believe that Scottish Borders Council and our elected members have the best interest of the townspeople of Galashiels at heart.”

Community councillor Bill White said: “When you look at the other options option 3 is the one for me. This is a huge opportunity for the whole community to get involved in the parkland design. You are going to have a world class building in a parkland setting and we should be involved in that.”