Town is still divided over plans for new school campus in park

Opinion remains deeply divided on the pros and cons of building a new £55m Galashiels community school campus on the western side of the town’s Scott Park.

Boreholes in Scott Park.
Boreholes in Scott Park.

Members of Galashiels Community Council last night, Tuesday, January 13, met by zoom to learn that consultation over the future of the scheme will start later this month and continue into January, with five options under consideration.

Ahead of that consultation, Scottish Borders Council’s preferred option is to build on park land.

Although community council members all support a new community school complex, there is no consensus on where it should be located.

It is claimed that proposed community campus would encroach 70 metres onto Scott Park.

Galashiels and district councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “I get a lot of people when I’m down the street saying can we just get on with it. Just as there are protests against the park proposal there are a helluva lot of people saying can we just get on and build this please. It’s not all against it. It’s a case of we want to get it on and that is the movement I am picking up.”

Chartered civil engineer Stuart Gordon, an opponent of building the new community school campus on the park, has launched a petition against the plans.

He is fiercely opposed to what he estimates is a 70 metres encroachment into the park.

Mr Gordon said: “What I think is it is absolutely essential that people appreciate the impact it is going to have on Scott Park. As a group of residents we actually went out and marked this out in Scott Park and we’re talking about quite something here, and I know it might sound emotive, but it is what is. I have taken the plans the council has developed and I’ve scaled them up the best I can and the development will be .93 hectares. It is 130 metres long and approximately 70 metres out from the existing school boundary wall.

“I make the comparison again with Asda and Tesco down there which are one hectare. The size of this school within Scott Park will be .93 hectares. It is almost the same size as one of these large superstores.”

Community councillor Liz Jardine took a different view.

She said: “I think we need a school quickly and all this fuss and palaver about green space is endless. I have seriously considered giving up the community council because I find it dreadful the way folk go on, saying we cannot have this here and we cannot have that there. We need a school desperately and I think you should all get together and say let’s accept it and get it done.”

Community council treasurer Tracey Alder agreed, adding: “First of all I would like to address something that happened a few weeks back.

“Stuart, you gave us some information to put on our community website. I got an email from Scottish Borders Council asking me to take down that information off the website because it was completely wrong. That you were out in your measurements by 33 metres. In my opinion 33 metres is a lot of meterage to be out by. In my opinion we need the school. How many times a year is Scott Park used? We use it once a year for the Gala fancy dress. It’s not a massive issue. We need a school, wherever they want to put it.”

In response, Mr Gordon said the original dimensions he provided were accurate as based on a previous council plan, which has since been altered.

He said: “I am astonished at some of the comment that I have heard about Scott Park. That the only thing that rattles about Scott Park is the occasional dog. My house looks out over Scott Park and I can assure you at any point there is generally someone out there with a dog, there’s generally kids playing out there, there’s kids sledging. There’s all sorts of stuff.

“The proposal that has been put forward by SBC is contrary to the Local Development Plan which says that it expected that it will be built on the site of the existing Galashiels Academy. It is also contrary to the council’s commitment to protect key green space.”

Community councillor Bill White addressed the need to get the consultation right.

He said: “From a consultation point of view we do need to move this on swiftly. What would be useful is if someone from the council was able to mark out where the boundary of the school would be. I think we would have a better understanding of its size.

“I have been up there and seen where the boreholes are and I was thinking: is that where the building stops or does it go further? So putting a marker for that would be a good idea. For someone to go around with a marker and mark it out.

“Personally I think there are two options, the preferred council one and the original option to build it on the current site, although there are problems and extra costs involved with that and I think that needs to be ironed out more. What are the extra costs and what would be the inconvenience for the children and where would we actually put them? We need to get on with the consultation and make it as easy as possible for the public to look at.”

Galashiels and district councillor Euan Jardine appealed for everyone to feed into the consultation.

He added: “As much as the council promotes something and puts it online people don’t feed into the consultation until after the decision is made. Now is the time to feed into it.”