COUNCILLORS have backed plans to build the replacement Inverkeithing High School in Rosyth.

Members of the education and children’s services sub-committee voted 14-4 in favour of the Fleet Grounds site at their meeting this morning.

The decision is sure to spark anger and dismay among community councils, parent bodies, churches and football clubs who all signed a letter urging Fife's education and children's services sub-committee to keep Inverkeithing High School in the town.

In a joint effort the community councils of Aberdour, Dalgety Bay and Hillend, Inverkeithing and North Queensferry have pulled support from dozens of organisations at short notice in an attempt to try and stop a replacement school going to Rosyth.

Furthermore, an online petition asking councillors to keep the school in Inverkeithing has attracted nearly 1,500 signatures in just a couple of days.

But councillors have chosen the Fleet Grounds in Rosyth for the new school as opposed to land on the other side of the A921 from the current school at Hillend.

The replacement for Inverkeithing High, expected to cost around £70 million and accommodate up to 2,000 pupils, is due to open in 2026. 

As part of the decision that the Fleet Grounds should be the preferred location, councillors agreed that every effort must be made to retain, refurbish and invest in the Wing, the community-use facility at Inverkeithing High. 

Sub-committee convener, Dunfermline South SNP councillor Fay Sinclair, said: "I don't think any of us underestimate the impact this decision will have but hopefully this will prove beneficial to many, many young people over the next few decades, not just the next few years, and we can look forward to progressing plans for a brand new high school for south west Fife."

The current Inverkeithing High buildings, which opened in 1972, are category C for condition and suitability and the suggestion of building a replacement on the current site was ruled out last year.

A number of sites were whittled down over the years to a final two, land to the north of the A921 at Hillend or the Fleet Grounds in Rosyth.  

The council will now approach the Ministry of Defence to buy the land needed in Rosyth and a public consultation will be launched.

Designs will be drawn up, planning assessments completed and "potential funding options" will then be explored.

At the meeting, Tory councillor Kathleen Leslie, seconded by party group leader Cllr Dave Dempsey, submitted an amendment asking the committee to back the A921 site as the preferred location for the school. 

Cllr Dempsey, who represents Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, said: "We need to consider the whole scenario here, all the factors. 

"The proposal to move it to Rosyth is not best value, it's not in the best interests of everyone and you should vote for the amendment."

Labour councillor Linda Erskine, who represents Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty, proposed the motion to choose Rosyth with the additional condition that the Wing is retained. 

She remembered a similar scenario, when a decision was taken to close a school at Auchterderran and build a replacement elsewhere, and said: "There had been a school on that site for 300 years so I understand the historical and emotional attachments people have and that any decision we make can be quite painful. 

"I've given this a lot of thought and the group has discussed this fully and decided, narrowly, to come down in favour of the Fleet Grounds as being the best option.

"I'm fully aware, when we talk about best value, it's never just about money but what we deliver to the young people that will be served by the new-build."

Cllr Erskine added: "I think all parties want to at least preserve the Wing and today I think we should, to show commitment, look at not just saving it but future investment and refurbishment."

"The present Inverkeithing High is category C in terms of condition and is just not good enough for our young people. So we should be looking at this additional commitment and hope that's enough to persuade people to support the motion."

Fife Council has set aside aside £117m for the replacement of Inverkeithing, St Columba's and Woodmill, as well as improvements at Queen Anne and Dunfermline high schools, but councillors were told that the new school will still require "significant investment" from the Scottish Government. 

Discussions are underway and education staff have, in a progress report to Holyrood, identified the replacement of Inverkeithing as the council's priority project. 

Councillors were told that the Fleet Grounds was a cheaper option, by around £5.7 million, and the report to the committee said: "On balance, based on construction costs, option 5 (Fleet Grounds) offers the best value location for the replacement of the Inverkeithing HS buildings.

"Once all costs are accounted for i.e. the acquisition of land, the construction costs, option 5 delivers the best value option for Fife Council." 

The joint statement by the community councils sent to the committee read: "We note with great concern the proposal to relocate Inverkeithing High School to Rosyth on grounds of capital costs alone.

"The report is clear that both sites are fully capable of supporting a new school and that the decision is recommended on cost as the sole differentiator.

"As councillors will be acutely aware, the council has a responsibility beyond the Education Directorate and beyond initial capital budgets.

"Any decision on a matter of this importance will have a direct impact on the provision of community facilities, the economic activity in the area, and the efforts to regenerate Inverkeithing.

"We appeal to councillors to consider the decision more holistically than the report presented to you directs, and suggest that, on balance, the decision should be in favour of retaining the school in Inverkeithing, to the north of the A921."

The four community councils added: "The construction costs between the two sites differs by less than £4.5m, increasing to £5.7m when additional allowances are taken into account.

"While nobody would argue that £5m is a small amount of money, it must be considered in the context of the overall construction cost as well as the other impacts set out in our letter. £5m represents around six per cent of the overall project spend and is of less significance than the impacts of removing the school from Inverkeithing along with the facilities we all make use of."

There will be more on this story in this week's Dunfermline Press.

The petition can be found here