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Community upset as Highland Council puts Stoer school up for sale

By Caroline McMorran

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Highland Council has been accused of going back on its word by putting a redundant Sutherland Primary School up for sale without first offering it to the community.

The 125-year-old Stoer School has gone on the open market with offers over £160,000 invited. An open day was held for potential purchasers last Tuesday.

Stoer Primary School and Loch Neil Bhàin. Picture: Alan Reid -geograph.org.uk/p/4468419
Stoer Primary School and Loch Neil Bhàin. Picture: Alan Reid -geograph.org.uk/p/4468419

The school has closed due to falling school rolls with Lochinver Primary School taking over its catchment area.

Assynt Community Council discussed the sale at its meeting last week after receiving a letter from a local resident highlighting a lack of community consultation.

Chairman Liam Taylor said: “I think it is poor that they have not consulted with any local groups on when this was happening so that that the community could get first dibs."

Secretary Phil Jones said: "I don't think a community buy-out is a good idea but if that is what the population of Stoer want to do, then good luck to them."

He claimed it had been made clear in a document produced following a public meeting at the school last year that the property would be put on the market only after it was offered as a community asset transfer.

Alex Dickson said: "The main issue is that Highland Council have failed by not having any local discussions or input into the future of this school. Whether there would be interest in any sort of community development is another issue."

Malcolm Bangor-Jones said: "The point is they (Highland Council) appear to have failed to follow up what they had promised."

He told the meeting he had attended the open day and, on opening a cupboard, had found a folder containing a letter from a parent about a child's absence as well as a number of school photographs.

"I think Highland Council should have removed any such record from the building," he said.

North, west and central Sutherland councillor Kirsteen Currie, who was at the online meeting responded: "That is really bad."

She continued: "I am wondering if it is like the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - a sign somewhere that if you wanted to express an interest (in the school) you could, but it was not particularly well advertised.

"A lot of promises were made during that meeting, specifically round a community asset transfer."

Members agreed to write to Highland Council.

Particulars for the stone-built Stoer school state it is sited in "generous grounds" and benefits from "well-proportioned rooms with high ceilings".

The schedule reads: "It offers the potential to be converted into an impressive dwelling or tourism related business."

The Northern Times has asked Highland Council to respond.

Click here to view the schedule of sale for Stoer school.

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