CONTRACTORS preparing plans for the new St Ambrose and Drumpark High Schools have announced that they will not be building on the controversial “toxic landfill” section of the site at Drumpellier Park.
Balfour Beatty have recently confirmed to North Lanarkshire Council that they plan to build on the peat bogs currently occupied by sports pitches, near the railway line which passes the chosen Townhead Road location.
Local campaigners who opposed the £44 million development on health grounds have cautiously welcomed the news but remain concerned and insist they still have “a lot of unanswered questions”.
Councillors on the learning and leisure committee had approved the choice of the hotly-disputed site in December after investigations into potential ground contamination and difficulties with the presence of former mine shafts.
However, they decided to leave the exact positioning of the building within the parkland up to the expert contractors following further studies.
Now they have been presented with a report stating: “Following careful consideration, two key principles for the design solution have been established.
“The building footprint will be on the southern area of the Townhead site, and will be three-storey rather than two-storey. It is the better overall solution for the new school development and is also £600,000 cheaper due to the more compact building form.”
Townhead community council secretary John Cushley, one of the leading campaigners against the development, conceded that the southern-area site was a better option.
However, the retired teacher still believes that the disputed greenbelt site should never have been approved and campaigned to have the schools built on St Ambrose’s current Blair Road site.
Mr Cushley said: “We think we can celebrate the news that they’re not planning to build on the landfill itself, but there will still be monumental problems with the whole project.
“Everyone locally knows there are five coal seams underneath which have been mined to total extraction, high levels of peat and the possibility of subsidence and methane generation.
“Although they aren’t building on the most toxic area of the park which brings a certain relief, we wonder how far the development will actually creep across the park, as it could dredge up the contents and send them flying all over Coatbridge and the east end of Glasgow.
“Previous research from America shows that communities are at risk of health hazards if there’s building within one kilometre of a site with known toxins. The area which has been chosen is one step better than building on the toxic site, but we still have really serious reservations about the decimation of the green belt.
“Ground which was gifted to the people of Coatbridge and has been open to the community for 100 years should be held in trust by the council.
“The same department responsible for developing leisure facilities is desecrating leisure facilities.”
Christine Pollock, the council’s executive director of learning and leisure services, said: “Our contractor’s specialist design consultants and architects have established that this general location is the best solution from both technical and design perspectives.
“They have also told us that the principle of a three storey building would meet our teaching, technical and financial requirements.
“Work is now beginning to prepare more detailed designs.”
The new St Ambrose and Drumpark High campus, which will also include community facilities, is one of 10 projects which will be completed under the £200 million Phase A of the Schools and Centres 21 initiative.
Current timescales propose that work on St Ambrose/Drumpark begins in December, and the £21 million remodelling of Caldervale High and its autistic unit in April 2010.
The first scheme to be started could be the new £2.4 million Dunbeth Nursery in Coatbridge town centre in November, followed by the £11.52 million Greenhill and Drumpark Primaries in February 2010.
There is not yet a set date for the approved £14 million Alexandra and Rochsolloch campus in Airdrie.