A PERIOD of informal consultation over controversial plans to merge two schools has been extended by almost two months to give people more time to have their say.
Council chiefs are giving residents an extra seven weeks to respond to a proposed merger of Currie Community High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) in a new building by 2022. The plans, unveiled at the end of last year as part of the council’s ongoing schools review, were met with a swift backlash amid fears over the potential impact on both local communities.
Now a period of informal consultation will not close until March 29 – some seven weeks later than the initial February 8 deadline – in light of the strength of interest from those who might be affected.
It comes after one of the administration’s own backbenchers “strongly urged” the public to make sure they read the proposals and spoke out.
Labour councillor Scott Arthur – whose Colinton/Fairmilehead ward includes Currie High – said he shared his constituents’ concerns over the complexity of the proposals and their “unexpected nature”.
Writing in an online article, Cllr Arthur said he was also concerned about the lack of an educational impact study and “that my constituents without children at the school were not directly notified”.
But he added: “Despite these problems, the current consultation is really just the first step in the process and I have been assured no decisions have been made yet. I would strongly urge all interested residents to take time to read the proposals and submit their comments.”
Meanwhile, protesters are expected to gather in Currie this evening ahead of a meeting of the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership which is set to discuss the plans.
Among those set to attend the meeting – which will take place at the Gibson Craig Memorial Hall from 7pm – is Conservative Pentland Hills councillor Susan Webber, who has tabled a motion on the subject.
She said the passing of time had done little to quell residents’ concerns and that they were in fact now “more resolute in their opposition”.
Education convener Ian Perry said their planned series of workshops were already under way and that they had received “constructive and positive” feedback.
He said: “More meetings are planned over the coming weeks including ones for community councils so everyone can have their say. In addition, we have extended the consultation period to March 29.
“There will also be a special education, children and families committee on this day that will ensure everyone can make their views known to committee members before a decision is taken at the following committee meeting.
“It is worth remembering that we are only at the informal consultation stage with the review and there would have to be a statutory consultation process before any changes could be considered.
“So I want to repeat our previous appeals for everyone to get in touch with their comments and any different ideas they would like us to consider.”
Details of the school proposals can be found on the council’s website.