Parents at an Inverness primary school are speaking out against part of the school’s play area being considered for housing.
Highland Council planners are considering a section of the green space in front of Dalneigh Primary School as a suitable spot for future housing.
Council planners said that the property could be accepted as a potential site for housing.
However, there are no projects in the works and it could still be rejected as a potential site.
In fact, council papers from 2020 suggest the site is not being actively supported because of the changes it would have on the school.
But parents say they first heard about the possibility over the weekend and are angry the site would even be considered.
They say a development would take away precious play space for the children, and they worry about the safety of new houses so close to the school.
And some pupils have even voiced their opposition, going into school with messages reading “Education needs outdoors” and “Do not brick us in!”
Why are parents against the plans?
Local parent and resident Sam West said that she can’t see any reason why the school’s green would be a good place to build.
“Can you imagine, for a child, looking out the window and not seeing that big green lot but seeing a massive block of flats?
“This will reduce the play area down to minimal. They use that field almost every day. They have the place space out there, they have their sports day, anything that goes on outside is pretty much in the front of the school there.
“And now that could be overlooked by flats.”
The plans don’t consider the use of the entire green area. They still leave a sizeable chunk for school use. But Mrs West said that isn’t necessarily a positive. It means her kids will be playing outside someone’s window.
“You don’t know who’s going to go in there. That’s going to be right over the top of a play space for children.
“Every way I look at this it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
‘Angry’s not the word for it’
Margaret Green said that she is worried her son would struggle to cope with construction in front of his school.
“My son’s got ADHD and autism. And I’m just wondering, where’s he going to get a runabout?
“Due to the pandemic, kids are getting more time outside. So they’re putting their lives at risk by putting them in a building site.”
They use that field almost every day.”
-Local parent Sam West
She said that there are a number of pupils at the school who have additional needs and struggle to cope with change.
“It’s pretty shocking. Angry’s not the word for it.”
‘If they do go ahead, there will be protests’
In a newsletter sent out on September 15, local councillor Bet McAllister informed residents that Dalneigh was on a list of potential sites.
She said no-one consulted residents or local councillors.
A group of parents and neighbours met outside the school this week to voice their opposition to any development on school grounds.
Many, like Tracy Stronach, said that they only heard about the plans that same day via a community Facebook group. She said that parents need to use this time to voice their opinions before anything becomes final.
“I think if they do go ahead with it, there’ll be a lot more people protesting about it. This needs to be the biggest noise you can make. Because if not, it’s just going to get swept over.”
The development is part of the council’s second Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan. The plan establishes the policies to guide development in the area for the next 20 years.
Dalneigh school development: What are the plans?
In an email sent on Monday morning, a Highland Council planner said that there had been a consultation this Spring on the new 20-year plan. There were no comments on the Dalneigh property, she said. But she added that planners reached out to the school and the council’s Care and Learning Service.
The council planner went on to explain that the site is only up for consideration. The council can choose not to allocate the site for housing.
In that case, it would remain part of the playing field. A planning document from 2020, which lists Dalneigh as an alternative site, suggests it wasn’t high on the list.
“The newly suggested site at Dalneigh Primary School would result in loss of local green space and is not supported for that reason. However, it could deliver affordable housing close to facilities and therefore views are invited on its acceptability to the local community.”
The City of Inverness Area Committee will discuss the plan on Nov 18. There will be another consultation period in early 2022, where residents can provide feedback.