New high school location must remain secret says council

Wednesday December 15th 2021


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

The latest update on the location of a new secondary school in Midlothian has again been heard in private because of “commercial confidentiality”.

The ‘secret’ location of the replacement for Beeslack High School, Penicuik, is being kept under wraps while the council negotiates with the landowner.

But while elected members of Midlothian Council were told at the start of September that the local authority was weeks away from signing the deal, a new private update produced at their meeting on Tuesday suggests it is still ongoing.

Councillor Kelly Parry, whose Midlothian West ward includes families who will be affected by the new school asked why, once again, no public update on the school progress was being presented.

She asked the meeting:

“There is a paper today on the replacement Beeslack High School, I wondered if I could get clarification about why it is being held in private and if it is possible to find out when this information will be made available to the public.”

Provost Peter Smaill said he had asked officers to look at redacting the commercially sensitive parts of the report so it can be talked about more in public in the future.

And Councillor Jim Muirhead, the Labour administration’s education spokesperson said he would “love” to come forward with additional details.

He told the meeting: “An update on the secret location of a new secondary school was held again. If we were able to publish details we would do that.

“We would love to be able to come forward with additional details on this because it is an exciting project, it certainly isn’t something we want to keep secret.

“I think the opportunities afforded by this proposal will be massive for the students, parents and general community. I am excited by the potential here and as soon as we are able to provide the information we will do that.”

The council’s principal lawyer Alan Turpie told the virtual meeting: “I appreciate members’ frustration. The paper is still in private because it contains details of the terms being discussed with the landowner.”

Councillor Parry previously raised concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the new location which it is feared could leave children facing a 40 minute walk to class and crossing a major road.

She accused the council of hiding behind “commercial sensitivity” insisting the public should be consulted before any land deal is signed and describing the transparency of Midlothian Council as “questionable”.

The new secondary school has been referred to as the “A701 corridor school”.

It had long been expected to be sited north of Gowkley Moss Roundabout, but a private meeting of councillors in June was told of a new site which was now being considered.

At the time Councillor Parry criticised the decision to keep the location secret.

She said: “The community should be allowed to have some say on this matter, and should have been part of this conversation and decision making process.”

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