Closure of Gregory’s Girl high school was ‘wrong’

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 14:48 on 8 February 2015

Politics    SNP    Abronhill High School

Abronhill High School closure row continues, in a different context now though. Picture: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media. 

TWO well-kent Cumbernauld SNP politicians have said that the closure of Abronhill High School was ‘wrong’, but that social housing is preferable to leaving the scarred land empty.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament, and Liz Irvine, one of the two SNP councillors for the Abronhill, Kildrum and The Village ward made the remarks in their response to the news that North Lanarkshire Council proposes a housing development on the site of the now demolished Abronhill High School.

Their comments come after councillors on the North Lanarkshire Council Housing and Social Work Services unanimously approved a report at a meeting on January 29 which recommended adding the former Abronhill High School site to a list of potential housing sites.

The former site of Abronhill High School, in Larch Road, Cumbernauld was the third identified site contained within the report, which suggested that up to 60 houses could be built on the site.

Reacting to the backing of the report, local MSP Jamie Hepburn has said that while new housing is preferable to the site lying empty that the Council was wrong to close the school in the first place.

He is also calling on the Council to involve the local community in its plans for the future of the site and has raised the possibility of linking any new development there to a wider redevelopment of the existing shop centre.

Commenting on the proposals, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn said: “Now that the Council have carried out their unpopular plan and have torn down a successful local High School, it is important that they do something with the site.

“The prominent location of this site at the heart of the community meant that it was perfect for the school. The Council should have been building a modernised Abronhill High School here.

“Of course it is right that this land is getting used productively rather than lying neglected for much longer, and in the midst of the on-going housing crisis it is right that some of this site be used to help address that.

He added: “However the prominent location of this site and its proximity to the Abronhill shopping centre presents an opportunity. The centre of Abronhill needs some attention so this opportunity should be taken to look anew at how it functions and how this site could be used to address that.

“The local community, who came together to passionately oppose the closure of this school, should be involved in this process. Their views must be actively sought by the Council and their wishes should be respected.”

The continuing row comes after savings produced by North Lanarkshire Council proposed rationalising Abronhill and Cumbernauld high schools, to create one school campus – that was later called Cumbernauld Academy.

Opposing the proposals, some parents, pupils and residents set up the Save Abronhill High School campaign and began fighting the proposals from September 2012, to stop North Lanarkshire Council going ahead with the proposed merger.

The authority claimed in its 2012 savings options, which outlined a potential £73million package of proposed savings, that the merger of the two schools could save up to £1.2million for the council.

However, campaigners weren’t satisfied with the promises of more educational opportunities and a new school building, and took their fight all the way to the Scottish Government, in a bid for the government to call-in the council’s proposals, and hopefully reverse the merger’s approval.

In June 2013, though, Scottish Government Ministers decided to give the go-ahead to the council’s proposals provided that the Council requested a safety assessment of the walking routes to Cumbernauld High School from Police Scotland; and, that within 3 months of receipt of the Police report, publish its response to the report, while the council undertook a full assessment of the safety and capacity of bus stances at Cumbernauld High School, in addition to improvement works to the proposed walking routes being carried out as a consequence of the Police recommendations before the first day of term of the new amalgamated school.

Parents, pupils and residents weren’t happy with the outcome, however, and said they were considering legal action – legal action which was eventually abandoned in December, when a campaign spokesperson explained that the group had binned their plans to “seek legal action against North Lanarkshire Council, and their plans to close Abronhill High School, next summer,” due to cost.

Abronhill, Kildrum and The Village SNP councillor, Liz Irvine has also reacted to the news, saying that the report provides “an opportunity” to positively impact the area.

Councillor Irvine said: “The Council should never have closed Abronhill High School, but we now have an opportunity to make a positive difference to the area and it is vital that this opportunity is not squandered.” 

“New housing is always welcome and it is right that this is part of a new development, but I think the Council could go further. The Council needs to work to regain the trust of this community and looking at a wider regeneration of the centre of Abronhill would be a start.”