Ballater group seeks a new use for old school

Part of the Old School in Ballater.
Part of the Old School in Ballater.

A Ballater group is making a determined effort to turn the old village school into a first class asset for the local community.

Aberdeenshire Council wants to dispose of the building and grounds in an ‘‘asset rationalisation programme.’’

The site might be sold to a developer but the group wants to ensure that the option chosen is best for Ballater.

If the group can generate enough support then it could obtain the property through some scheme such as ‘‘community asset transfer.’’

The group will promote its ideas at the “Old School Road Show” starting 6.30pm on Tuesday, July 1, in the Albert Hall.

It wants to hear the opinions of local residents and also invite other ideas.

The group is also delivering leaflets to residents asking for their thoughts on the future for the old school.

Ballater School, in Abergeldie Road, was founded around 1876, closed in the 1980s and converted to an environmental education centre.

This centre was, in turn, closed by Aberdeenshire Council in 2000.

There was considerable public support for a proposal to convert the site into an asset run by the local community.

Supported by Ballater (RD) Ltd (BRD), the Ballater Centre Development Group (BCDG) drew up proposals which included affordable homes, office space, a training centre and an ‘outreach’ unit.

It raised funds for a feasibility study and the report, published in 2005, was positive.

Based on this report the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment drew up some attractive plans in 2006.

Unfortunately, the feu conditions stated the site could be used only for educational purposes so there was no progress for several years while legal difficulties were sorted out.

In 2010, Aberdeenshire Council offered the site to the North East Scotland Preservation Trust (NESPT) which rejected the offer in spring 2014.

The group has members from Ballater & Crathie Community Council, BRD and Ballater Business Association, the Victoria and Albert Halls Trust plus representatives of the (former) BCDG.

It is is supported by expertise from Cairngorms National Park Authority in key areas such as access to funding and its formation has been welcomed by the Marr Area Committee of Aberdeenshire Council.