The Ayrshire Hospice and Saltcoats primary schools have benefitted from the winding-up of a local campaign group.
of the Saltcoats-based Laighdykes Residents Group recently decided to
disband the organisation, which was formed around 10 years ago to fight
North Ayrshire Council’s plan to build a school on Laighdykes playing
fields, the main sports pitches used by residents of Saltcoats and
Ardrossan. Although the then Labour-run Council pressed ahead with the
project that saw St Andrews Academy demolished and replaced by the much
larger St Matthews Academy, the campaign run by the Laighdykes Residents
Group is recognised as one of the most high-profile and best-run ever
seen in the local area.
At the final meeting of the Group, it was
proposed that funds remaining in a specially-created bank account
should be used to benefit Saltcoats school children and to help the work
of the Ayrshire Hospice. In addition, two youth organisations and two
locally-operating charities were also nominated to receive financial
The Group purchased shields, which were presented to
each of the primary schools in Saltcoats. The individual schools are
free to award the shields on an annual basis to acknowledge achievement
by a pupil in any field. It was also decided to donate £250 each to the
Ardrossan Sea Cadets, the Air Training Corps, North Ayrshire Cancer
Patient Transport and the Salvation Army. The remainder of the Group’s
finances was forwarded to the Ayrshire Hospice, with the Clydesdale Bank
deciding to match the donation pound-for-pound.
As part of the
campaign attempting to stop construction on the local playing fields,
the Laighdykes Residents Group organised a march attended by hundreds of
local people, and petitioned the Scottish Parliament calling on the
then Labour-Lib Dem Scottish Executive to “review existing planning
procedures and guidance to ensure that they are sufficient to prevent
local authorities from using playing field land for development
purposes.” The Group was also instrumental in securing a debate in the
Scottish Parliament on the subject of ‘Laighdykes Playing Fields’.
overwhelming public support for the aims of the campaign, the Labour
administration of North Ayrshire Council ignored all opposition and
pressed ahead with its highly-controversial Schools PPP Project. Using
the now discredited Public Private Partnership method of funding the
construction of four schools, including St Matthews, Labour councillors
agreed a contract that will cost local taxpayers at least £380m over 30
years: the actual value of the four schools, when new, was just £80m.
Laighdykes Residents Group revealed, at the time, that the Council had
actually received just one credible and viable bid for its contract to
build the schools, meaning that a core element of the bid process – that
there must be genuine competition – had not been achieved.
the first elections to North Ayrshire Council following the local
authority’s decision to ignore public opinion and press ahead with
building a new school on the local playing fields, Ronnie McNicol and
John Hunter, two members of the Laighdykes Residents Group, were elected
as Independent councillors. Both Mr McNicol and Mr Hunter were
re-elected in 2011.