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June 7, 2004

College for deaf set to go west in 3 years

From: The Scotsman - Edinburgh,Scotland,UK - Jun 7, 2004


DONALDSON'S College for deaf children could be transferred to a new multi-million pound building in Linlithgow within three years.

College governors are expected to submit an outline planning application to the local authority for a site in the West Lothian town within the next fortnight.

The school trustees have been searching for a new site for the institute after agreeing to sell its current home - the historic A-listed Playfair building near Haymarket - to developers in a £15 million deal last year.

The Linlithgow site is one of two shortlisted locations in West Lothian being considered by the college's board of governors.

A third piece of land beside the new Queen Margaret University College campus in Musselburgh has also been under consideration. But the school's principal, Janet Allan, indicated that a move west of the city would be top of the college's wish list for a new school.

Mrs Allan said a final decision on the Linlithgow site was still to be taken, but hoped that an official announcement would be made at the end of next month.

She said: "We have a shortlist of two or three preferred sites, but have not made a final decision. We have been in discussion with the local authorities.

"A couple of the sites are in West Lothian and we are quite interested in a move westward because we represent the whole of Scotland."

One source close to the negotiations said any move out of Edinburgh may prove unpopular with the parents of city-based pupils.

But the principal said parents had been "very supportive" of the college as it searched for new premises. The Linlithgow proposal would see the demolition of the former Racal Defence Electronics (Radar) Ltd factory at Preston Road and the building of a state-of-the-art school.

It is understood education chiefs want to start work on the new facility as soon as possible and are hopeful it will be open for business by 2007.

Between 70 and 100 pupils will be moved to the site under the plans along with around 90 full and part-time staff. At least a third of pupils are expected to reside in the school.

Another source said: "The site at Linlithgow is a good site and fits the college's criteria and there should be an application for outline planning permission going into West Lothian Council fairly soon.

"They're talking about having the new school in full occupancy for 2007-08."

Linlithgow Councillor Tom Kerr said: "There has been some talk about this happening but I've heard nothing definite yet. If the college was to come to Linlithgow it would certainly be welcome."

In July last year the Evening News revealed how the college board and Cala Homes had struck a £15m deal for the A-listed landmark building.

At least 100 flats, to be sold for around £200,000 each, are set to be created in and around the main building, which was designed by William Henry Playfair and completed in 1851.

The cash from the deal will allow the school to move to more modern premises.

The proposals for the West Coates building are likely to mean the demolition of a modern block built within the college grounds.

The spectacular front lawn will be retained and views of the building from the road will be preserved.

Trustees of the school announced two years ago that it was to go on sale in a bid to solve ongoing financial problems.