Paul Drury

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build hundreds of homes on former mining land have been revived, prompting fears a top school will struggle to cope with rising rolls.

East Renfrewshire Council, which has been forced to impose limits on the country’s top-performing Catholic school, is in secret talks that could lead to many more children living in the area.

The local authority has been criticised for insisting priority should be given to pupils who can prove a Catholic upbringing for entry to St Ninian’s High, Giffnock.

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Council leaders say that, because of excellent exam results, the school is full to capacity and some form of restriction now has to be imposed.

However, the council has been involved in confidential discussions with a developer who hopes to revive plans to build up to 155 houses within the school’s catchment area.

The inevitable arrival of more families would place the school roll under even greater pressure, argue local residents.

The unnamed developer hopes to team up with the council, which owns land at Braidbar Quarry, Giffnock.

The quarry was mined for hundreds of years for its distinctive grey sandstone, used to build tenements and villas in Glasgow, as well as public buildings in Australia.

Excavation work left huge underground caverns, supported by giant pillars, which meant the ground above could not support construction.

Eight years ago, housebuilder Macdonald Estates tried to overcome the problem by suggesting a “reverse mining” scheme, where the site would be stabilised by injecting two million cubic metres of material underground.

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A high-profile campaign opposing the move gained almost 2,000 signatures, and the scheme was eventually abandoned after the Scottish Government Reporter ruled it was not possible under the council’s Local Plan.

Dr Gordon Canning, 58, a consultant in palliative medicine, said he was very concerned to learn there are fresh plans to develop the Braidbar Quarry site.

He added: “There is the associated disruption to local people over a long period of time, plus the additional pressure this will place on local schools.

“My three children were lucky enough to go to St Ninian’s. The school is bursting at the seams as it is now.”

Elaine Boyes, 48, whose garden backs on to the quarry, said: “There’s no way local roads – already congested – could cope with hundreds of new homes.”

Macdonald Estates founder Dan Macdonald said his company is not the developer involved in the talks.

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East Renfrewshire Council has refused to identify the party involved and this week denied a Freedom of Information request that would have revealed its preliminary correspondence over the quarry.

A council spokesman said the impact on school rolls would only be calculated once a planning application had been lodged.

He added: “For any development to take place on this site, detailed proposals would first need to be developed and submitted to our planning service for full consideration and be in accordance with the Local Development Plan, including any Adopted Development Brief.

“The site would also require full remediation before any development could commence and this in itself could potentially take two years or more.”