PARENTS of a closure-threatened Catholic primary have hit out at the council after planning documents warned of a shortage of school places in the area.


Campaigners for St Joseph's Primary in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, said the case to save the school had been bolstered after the council's own development plan for 2015 indicated that new housing may not be approved because existing nurseries and schools nearby were already near capacity.

East Dunbartonshire Council wants to merge St Joseph's with St Andrew's Primary in neighbouring Bearsden.

The campaigners highlighted a passage on page 62 of the plan, which states: "Due to capacity issues in Bearsden and Milngavie, proposals for new housing in this area may require a planning obligation towards the provision of nursery, primary or secondary schools where capacity issues can be demonstrated by the Education service."

Campaigners said this underlined a lack of communication between the education department, which is pushing ahead with a primary school closure, and a housing department aware that new developments may require additional schools or nurseries to be built.

However, the council said the concerns do not apply to St Joseph's Primary, which is only 45 per cent full.

It comes as the parents attempting to overturn the merger plans announced they would be organising a hustings debate, with all candidates running for election in East Dunbartonshire invited to take part.

Helen Williams, vice chair of St Joseph's Parent Council, said: ""East Dunbartonshire Council's left hand does not know what its right hand is doing.

"It is absolutely astonishing that they are trying to push through an unpopular school closure when their own development plan is warning about a shortage of school places.

"The hustings will give us an opportunity to put all the candidates on the spot and ask them what they are going to do to support us."

The hustings will be held on April 20 at St Joseph's Church Hall in Milngavie.

Paula Speirs, one of the parents opposing St Joseph's closure, added: "The Parent Council knew that hustings were being organised in other parts of East Dunbartonshire and we felt it was really important there was one in Milngavie.

"Education is a really important issue in the election and we need to know where all the candidates stand on the future of St Joseph's before we vote, but this is an event for the whole community. Everyone is welcome."

In February, the campaigners for St Joseph's Primary wrote to the First Minister asking her to support a bid by the community to take over the running of the school, accusing the council of having "walked away from its responsibilities" to Catholic families in the area.

More than 500 people in both Milngavie and Bearsden took part in the council's original consultation process, with 87 per cent opposing the merger.

Chief Education Officer, Jacqueline MacDonald, said: "The Education Service was consulted during the drafting of the Local Development Plan and helped inform this particular section.

"This paragraph reflects the fact that some schools and nurseries in Bearsden and Milngavie are operating at very high occupancy (90 per cent plus) and there is a high demand for places. Where there is potential for new housing in these catchment areas, it is right to highlight the position.

"There is not the same pressure in the denominational schools with St Andrew's sitting at 65 per cent occupancy and with St Joseph's 45 per cent occupied."