Parents and pupils protesting a potential threat to the green space outside an Inverness school have put their fears in writing.
Dalneigh Primary School parent Sam West has handed Highland Council a petition with 139 signatures.
Featuring comments like ‘stupid idea’ and ‘not enough green space’, the petition asks council to abandon proposals to allow residential building near the city school.
The council had identified the school grounds as a potential area to develop housing, as part of its Inner Moray Firth Development Plan.
The idea was met with widespread opposition from the community.
Some parents held a demonstration on school grounds last month, begging “‘Do not brick us in”.
Flat no from Dalneigh
“Whoever came up with this idea, it makes me laugh,” says Mrs West. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense. This is a small school with a small green area as it is.”
The 139 people signing the petition agree. One parent commented: “Kids need green space to play. They need to run around.”
Another wrote: “Not enough space already – terrible idea!”
The majority of people simply wrote “no”.
Councillor Janet Campbell, who represents the Inverness Central ward, agrees with the parents. “There’s no doubt these proposals are fervently opposed by the Dalneigh head teacher, community council, local members and parents,” says Mrs Campbell.
“Now more than ever, we understand that green space is crucial to the education and emotional wellbeing of our children, particularly at primary school age.”
‘It doesn’t make any sense’
Mrs West says she is not against more housing at Dalneigh, and she would welcome the expansion of the school. However, any development must be in the right place.
“We want people to move here, and we want the school to have more classrooms if they’re needed, but it has to be done in a way that benefits the school,” she says. “There are other earmarked sites nearby that are more appropriate for development. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Highland Council planners say that even if planning permission is granted, the playground would only be reduced in size and not removed altogether.
They add that a consultation into the Inner Moray Firth Development Plan this spring received no objections relating to the school.
However, Dalneigh parents say they only heard about the proposal on a community Facebook page.
What happens next?
Inverness area committee will discuss the proposals at its meeting on November 18.
A council spokesperson said: “The decision on which sites are to be allocated in the proposed plan will rest with the councillors on the day of the committee.
“Following committee, the proposed plan will be issued for public consultation. This consultation will be on the content of the entire plan for the wider Inner Moray Firth area.”
The Scottish Government will examine the public comments and the council’s response before the end of 2022.
Commenting on the petition, Mrs Campbell said: “I acknowledge the sterling efforts made by Sam West as a community activist and parent of young children in Dalneigh Primary School. Her petition reflects local views which will be considered at the Inverness committee meeting next month.”
Mrs West is optimistic that the council will listen to parents’ views, but she’s not resting on her laurels. “I’m prepared to keep fighting this into the future. The petition shows that the whole community doesn’t want this.”