THE regeneration of the site of a former Scottish steelworks has hit a major stumbling block after opposition to a new superschool on the site from parents and politicians.
North Lanarkshire Council has drawn up plans for the merger of two existing Catholic secondaries in a new £36m school at Ravenscraig, on the outskirts of Motherwell.
The council believes the proposal is necessary because of a combination of unsuitable and deteriorating buildings at Our Lady's High and Taylor High in Motherwell with Ravenscraig the ideal site for a large new school. The proposals would also save the council money.
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However, parents and local politicians have opposed the plan arguing the existing schools are in a reasonable condition and are vital to their communities.
They have also accused the council of trying to use the development - which also involves special school Bothwellpark High - as a way of generating more interest in the Ravenscraig re-development from housing developers and major retailers.
Once the largest steelworks of its kind in Western Europe, the Ravenscraig facility closed in 1992 and since then has been designated as a major urban regeneration project.
Billed as Scotland's first new town in over 50 years, it is already the site of a £32m sports facility and the Motherwell campus of the New College Lanarkshire and has outline planning consent for 3500 new homes. The school is seen as an important part of the next phase of the development.
Tom Milligan, 76, a former pupil and teacher at Our Lady's High who has three grandchildren at the school, said: "The existing schools are on good sites in the community and we don't want children bussed away to another school on a huge site where nothing else is there.
"There are also concerns about building a school on the former site of a major industrial centre."
Michael McMahon, Scottish Labour MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill, also wants the plans to be withdrawn.
He said: "I want Ravenscraig to work, but it has to be on the basis of establishing a successful commercial and retail centre rather than building a large school to encourage housing development.
"What is particularly concerning to people is that this development is to the detriment of existing communities who want their schools to remain where they are."
However, Jim Logue, the council's convener of learning and leisure services, said the proposed merger had the potential to bring together the best each school had to offer in buildings fit for the 21st century.
He said: "If the plans go ahead, it would represent another exciting chapter in the regeneration of Ravenscraig.
"The former steelworks site is already home to a new £80m college, a £32m sports facility, several hundred houses and it will soon include a new £2.9m family pub and restaurant.
"The site chosen has been prepared and is ready to use and there are no associated health and safety risks. It has been subject to the highest possible safety assessments."
The council said the proposals, if approved, would provide an opportunity for pupils to be educated in a modern teaching environment. Officials will be offering an opportunity for parents from Motherwell to attend an open day at a new £44m school campus in Coatbridge later this month, which they say is built on a similar site.
A spokesman for Ravenscraig Ltd, which is leading the development, said: "We look forward to continuing negotiations with the council over the location and design of the shared campus." The consultation deadline has been extended to May 16.