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School to become community centre

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
School to become community centre

A VILLAGE school which was mothballed less than a year ago is set to be turned into a community centre.

The keys to Ae Primary School will be handed to the village’s community council in order for the building to be utilised for running clubs, social events, celebrations for Christmas, Easter, and Burns Day, as well as regular community council meetings.

Dumfries and Galloway Councillors last week agreed to give the community council a two-year lease and talks will take place between the group and council officers around costs and a potential reduction in rates due to limited funds.

The school was mothballed in March 2023 due to a low pupil roll, and council papers state that it could still reopen as a school in future if numbers rise.

However, the takeover as a community facility was on the table at the council’s finance, procurement and transformation committee last Thursday.

A one-year lease was being proposed by the council, but Lochar Councillor Linda Dorward called for a two-year agreement instead – and that lease fees are reduced by 50 per cent.

She added: “In Ae, the village which happens to be in the ward that I’m a councillor, there’s no other building that the community can use for recreation purposes. And whilst the school has been open, the community has used it for a number of clubs, for Easter and Christmas celebrations, summer holidays, and there’s a community garden there as well, and an over 55s group – it’s a really good group.

“So it’s used a lot. Extensive discussions have gone on with the council about this and the council is putting down recommendations to agree a one-year licence to occupy the primary school, which is reasonable.

“However, the community council were initially offered in November 2023 a two-year licence.

“This would allow them as a new community council to do some work and, if the school remains mothballed, they may go for community asset transfer at the end of the two years.”

Lochar Councillor Maureen Johnstone echoed Councillor Dorward’s proposal, saying: “I know we’re being asked to agree a one-year term, but the certainty of a two-year licence gives the community more time to access needs, which is bringing the community together in an accessible building.

“Having a building to meet in gives continuity to the groups, reducing isolation, supporting the residents of Ae village and environs.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to the two-year lease agreement.

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