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Parents back opt-out to rise from the ashes

When fire consumed Greeness primary a few nights before Christmas 1994, parents of the Aberdeenshire school's 34 pupils were confident it would be replaced.

Twenty months on, confidence has given way to disillusionment as Greeness continues to share accommodation with Monquhitter primary in nearby Cuminestown. The result is a ballot to opt out of local authority control.

Parents believe they can force Aberdeenshire Council to build a new school. Paul Anderson, the school board chairman, said: "We decided it was time to become proactive. The parents petitioned the board to apply for self-governing status and we voted in favour. We should know within two months if we have been successful."

The council voted 22-21 against rebuilding despite a commitment from the former Grampian Region and Greeness residents are angered at Aberdeenshire's plan to use an insurance payout to upgrade facilities at other local schools.

Alex Birnie, whose five children are former pupils, said: "It is deplorable that the council is using a financial carrot to pit community against community in this way. If people in Turriff have the choice between money going towards upgrading Turriff Academy or rebuilding Greeness, it is not difficult to guess how they will vote."

Joan Orskov, the council's Liberal Democrat education convener, says: "Aberdeenshire Council is in an extremely straitened financial situation and we are required to rationalise as much as possible. If the school is to be rebuilt, we will still have to find somewhere in the region of Pounds 80, 000."

Mrs Orskov added: "It is not yet clear whether, should the application be successful, the Secretary of State would require Aberdeenshire to pay the insurance money and the additional 20 per cent capital costs. It is a very unusual situation."

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