A new school which will give children education from nursery to adulthood will be a “beacon” for Midlothian, a local councillor has said.
Plans to build the school and community facility on the former Monktonhall Colliery site as part of the new Shawfair development in the county were given approval in principle by the Midlothian Planning Committee last week.
And it was revealed the school could be up and running in five years, with plans to have it ready in 2024/25.
The proposals, lodged on behalf of Midlothian Council, will centre on a community facility which will incorporate secondary, primary and early learning facilities as well as family learning, a library, healthcare and business facilities.
A report to councillors said that while the Shawfair Masterplan designated the site, which will be to the north east of the town centre, for residential homes and a business village, and identified two separate areas for two new schools, there was now an alternative view.
The report said: “Within the current economic climate there is uncertainty over whether the town centre will be able to sustain the quantity of office uses initially anticipated (in 2003) that would exist within it.
“Therefore it is prudent and reasonable for the council to consider whether some alternative uses in the town centre would be more appropriate.”
The report went on to argue the new school and community facilities would draw people to the town centre and benefit retail businesses established in the area.
At a meeting of the planning committee last week, Peter Arnsdorf, development management manager, told councillors that the developers of the overall Shawfair site were willing to realign the masterplan, which was drawn up in 2002, to mitigate the community facilities if approved.
Supporting the planning application, Councillor Stephen Curran (Lab) asked planners to ask the developers to consider adding something to reflect the land’s past.
He said: “Given the history of this site, it was the last working mine in Midlothian, if the developer or applicant could consider some kind of activity or structure that could reflect its history.”
And planning convenor Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab) called for a green transport plan to be implemented around the new facility.
He said: “Given this is going to be a beacon for the whole area and not just a 8.30am to 4.30pm facility, have we anything in place for a green transport plan?
“If we are really committed in the climate change agenda and low emission zone agenda, are we committed to getting something in place?”
Mr Arnsdorf said Shawfair would have well-planned footpaths, cycle paths and public connectivity.
He said: “By the time the secondary school comes into use, which should be 2024/25, further parts of Shawfair will be developed so that network will start to take place.”
Cllr Imrie welcomed the new proposals for the planned facility at Monktonhall. He added: “This is going to be another iconic model.
“It is going to be an all through school so we are really starting to address where a child will go for their first day in education and will come out at the back end of that either to go for a job, to university or further education.
“It is another feather in the cap for Midlothian when it comes to fruition.”
Nick Waugh, director of Shawfair LLP welcomed the approval of the new school. He said: “This is excellent news for Shawfair town centre and will provide a vibrant focal point, attracting people from all over the area.
“The town centre is really taking shape now. Dandara has become the first housebuilder to begin constructing new homes within the Shawfair ‘ring road’ and we plan to begin initial ground investigations for the eastern section of road shortly. This will run north from the new Millerhill Village bypass – which opened earlier this year - and provide a direct connection with the new campus.”
When completed, the new town of Shawfair will have 4000 sustainable homes.