Councillors have thrown a lifeline to plans for a new academy in a growing north-east town.
Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Garioch area committee yesterday decided continue with talks about the possible purchase land which could one day house Kintore Academy.
They made the decision despite the local authority claiming the school was no longer a “high priority”.
Local members called for updated school roll figures to be analysed before they make any decision on whether to shelve the plans.
The cost of buying land beside the new Midmill Primary could be more than £100,000 and may be “non-returnable”.
Last year, councillors were given the option of going ahead with a new, 1,600-pupil Inverurie Academy, or a 1,200 capacity secondary school in the town and a new 740-pupil Kintore Academy.
They agreed to proceed with the first option, but also decided negotiations for the land at Midmill should continue.
Yesterday, councillors were asked to withdraw from an “option agreement” for the site.
Vice-chairman of the Garioch area committee and East Garioch councillor Martin Ford said a rezoning exercise may have to be considered in Kintore.
Pupils from the town currently go to Kemnay Academy – which is due to reach capacity around 2020.
Councillor Ford said: “A few years ago we were saying three academies might be needed in the A96 corridor.
“We don’t have the latest educational roll forecasts in front of us. The most recent forecasts I can recall were saying the Kemnay roll was going to reach the capacity of the school by 2020.
“At the moment children from Kintore primary schools go to Kemnay. It might not make much difference unless we change the catchments.
“If we were to lose the option of this site, what is the alternative? Because we will need one. We might need it later than expected, but we will need it.”
Fellow ward councillor and committee chairman Fergus Hood said he had requested updated school roll information before the meeting.
He said he believed the council should “maintain an option for this land”.
He added: “We have had historical, long-term problems with school development in Kintore.
“Looking at these levels of pupil numbers would indicate that we need two-and-a-half academies in the catchment area.”
He called for “further information” to allow the committee to “have another look” at issue.
The decision was halted for more information on “alternatives” to purchasing the land, taking into account the latest school roll forecasts, which are due later in the year.