Highland Council meets with Caol community to discuss new Gaelic school.

The Highland Council Chief Executive, Convener and planning and education colleagues met with Caol Community Council, neighbouring residents and local elected members on Tuesday evening 20 August 2014 to listen to concerns about the building of the games hall at the new Gaelic School.

Concerns were expressed in relation to the height of the games building, the particular impact on four neighbouring houses, any flooding risk and the general disturbance caused by construction works on the site.

Chief Executive Steve Barron thanked everyone for attending and stated that he was there to listen to concerns raised by the community and to learn any lessons for the future, as well as to give assurances that the intention of the council is to provide the best possible facilities for the area.

He presented the key timelines in the planning process for the new £7 Million Gaelic School being built in Caol.
He said: “I am satisfied that the proper statutory planning processes have taken place for the new Gaelic School in Lochaber. There were numerous opportunities for people to respond during the process and it is unfortunate that we did not receive any objections during that phase. Indeed the only responses we did receive were positive. 

“Moving the building or lowering it however, now that building is underway, are just not viable options and both have prohibitive costs.

He said: “I accept that it is never possible to content everyone, particularly where planning issues are concerned, however I have listened to what people have to say during the evening and fully sympathise with the concerns expressed.  

“I believe it is generally agreed that the school is going to be a valuable asset for the community as a whole. It must also be seen in the context of a total £50 million investment in schools in Lochaber.

“Whilst we have complied with proper planning processes, I am sure there are lessons to be learned as to how we communicate with communities and I am keen that we learn those lessons and strive to improve how we keep people informed.”

Mr Barron gave the following commitments to those attending the meeting:

  • To seek to involve neighbouring residents more fully in addition to community councils at the pre-consultation stage
  • To offer training in planning processes to lay people on community councils if they wish, to assist them to engage fully 
  • To be clearer about marking heights of buildings on 3D models 
  • To check again and report back on any flood risks and concerns raised at the meeting
  • To set up a liaison group between Highland Council and the Community Council to ensure effective communications and to address problems during the construction period
  • To raise with the contractor concerns expressed about noise and vibration 
  • To meet with the Liaison Group to design an attractive planted corridor in the 20m space between the Games hall and the school boundary
  • Consider and report back to the Community Council on the suggestion that high level glazing be incorporated into the wall cladding of the games hall
  • To consider a protocol which would require all planning applications for new schools to be determined at Planning Committee.
  • To write to the Chair of the Caol Community Council and neighbouring residents who attended with a note of what was agreed at the meeting.

Convener Jimmy Gray thanked everyone for attending the meeting.

He said: “I would like to thank everyone for coming to the meeting and for listening to what the council has to say.

“I appreciate the strength of local feeling and sympathise with the concerns raised. I do hope that this has been an opportunity for both the council to listen to those concerns and for the community to better understand the planning processes and considerations for what is a huge (£7m) investment for the community and part of a total of £50m being invested in school facilities in Lochaber, which we must not lose sight of.”

He concluded: “As always, lessons can and will be learned for the future.”

-Ends-

20 Aug 2014
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