LOCHABER’s new Gaelic school will be built in Caol after councillors vetoed the rival site at the Blar Mhor.
Highland Council has approved a controversial move to construct the £7 million stand-alone facility at Ardgour Road and overruled a decision taken last month to defer the matter so the potential costs at the Blar could be investigated.
Five out of the seven Lochaber councillors on the authority had supported a delay agreed by the adult and children’s committee so further quotes from sub contractors on the price of clearing the Blar of peat could be sought.
The council’s education director Hugh Fraser had warned the location could cost a hefty £900,000 to prepare for the area’s first stand alone Gaelic school.
In a stormy debate at the full council in Inverness today (Thursday) which lasted more than a hour local councillors argued about the figures presented by officials.
Lochaber Provost Allan Henderson said more time was needed so councillors avoided an "unsafe decision" and claimed not enough information on the Blar location had been provided.
Alasdair Dodds, the council’s chief executive, intervened at one point and said councillors should have every confidence in the estimates presented by his staff who he trusted fully to do the most professional job possible.
The administration, which was attacked by its own member, Lochaber councillor Brian Murphy, for refusing to listen to local councillors’ views on the issue, won the notion of amendment by 43 votes to 27 to build the school at Caol.
It was confirmed during the meeting that the £500,000 of community benefit deriving from the development by Miller Construction of Blar Mhor can be used for community projects outwith the Blar Mhor site, including at Lochaber High School.
Councillor Alasdair Christie, chairman of the adult and children’s services committee said: "This is great news for Fort William.
"The community is getting a state of the art new Gaelic Medium primary school, which represents an investment of £7 million from the council.
"This is good news for parents and it is good news for the construction industry in these challenging times.
"It is also good news that the £500,000 of community benefit from the Blar Mhor development can be used for a community project outwith the immediate area.
"A good day all round for Fort William."
It is expected construction of the new school will begin in 2015.
*A full report on the meeting and reaction to the decision will appear in the Lochaber News on Thursday, September 13.