A COMMUNITY group is progressing plans to bring a former school back into public use after a Kinross-shire village was left without a single facility.

It is hoped it will provide a “fantastic opportunity” for residents failed in the past by scandal and unfulfilled promises.

Fossoway Community Development Trust is preparing a Community Asset Transfer of Blairingone Primary School.

Perth and Kinross Council closed the school at the end of June 2019 – shutting the doors on the village’s last asset. Prior to the school’s closure Blairingone had lost its village hall, shop, church and pub.

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An open-cast mine operated in the village for several years before it closed in the 1990s. The village was then at the centre of a “fields of filth” scandal over the spreading of sewage sludge, blood and guts on farmland.

In 2002 former MSP George Reid addressed the Scottish Parliament after the people of Blairingone lodged a petition with the parliament seeking a safe, sustainable disposal of waste to land.

He said: “The people of Blairingone have been blighted for far too long. For eight years up until 1996, they had to endure the dust and noise of open-cast mining. Since that time, when the land was transferred, they have been subjected to the spreading of sewage sludge and the composting of a cocktail of waste.

“I do not know what Blairingone has done to deserve all that, apart from being guilty of being thought to be too small, too remote and too rural to put up a fight for environmental justice.”

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Now the people of Blairingone are once again fighting; this time for a community takeover of the former village school.

Fossoway Community Development Trust director Marion Anness said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to have a public facility in the village now that everything else has been sold or closed over the years. Blairingone was promised many things after the open-cast mining and the ‘fields of filth’ scandal so hopefully we will once again have a community hall for us and future generations.”

The trust is consulting with Blairingone, the surrounding hamlets and the Fossoway district on its plans.  A feasibility study will have to be completed before a business plan with the Community Asset Transfer request can be submitted again to Perth and Kinross Council.

Anness added: “We are a keen and committed group from Blairingone and Solsgirth. We are unable to hold public meetings in Blairingone as we have no public facility which is why we want to take on the school.

“We have some excellent plans for the old school with a major emphasis on health and wellbeing facilities and activities for the community. The  schoolhouse – when renovated – would provide a sustainable income to maintain the school.”

Former local councillor and the trust’s chairman Mike Barnacle said: “We are in the process of getting funding for a website and developing a community action plan. There are currently members from 50 households.”

PKC’s Communities service manager David Stokoe recently provided an update to Kinross-shire Local Committee when it met on February 15.  He said the council was supporting the trust with the project.

The council officer said: “The next steps for the group are a feasibility study and community engagement.”

He pledged to chase up a valuation of the building for the trust and to “make sure they have all the information and have looked at the viability of taking it on and its sustainability”.