I mean, really – where is all this ‘economic benefit’ that, according to some local councillors, a school brings to an area?
This is what the shops beside the current Our Lady and St Patrick’s school look like…
These shops at Hawthornhill Road, which are a two-minute walk from the school, aren’t looking too prosperous. In fact, on a weekday morning, only one out of nine was actually open and doing business. And yet, the OLSP proposal document that has been prepared for the public consultation on the schools development states clearly that building the school on Posties Park “could result in economic benefits to the town”. Really? The same way that having the school in Castlehill for the last 30 years has resulted in economic benefits to the Hawthornhill Road shops?
I’m highly suspicious of the argument that moving the school to Posties Park will suddenly stop the decline of our High Street, and turn-around the prospects of those retailers who still have a stake in this bit of the town. And what’s more, I think that our councillors know that it’s a specious argument as well. Why else do they couch their language and refrain from making any definite statements, instead preferring to hide behind, ‘could’, ‘might’ and ‘may’. Why are they unable to cite any proof of concept?
But the problem is that, even by suggesting that there may be an economic benefit, they stir up a section of the community who have a very deep desire to see our High Street return to its former glory. A week or so ago, I had an online ‘debate’ with one such person on Facebook, and he insisted that footfall in the High Street would increase by 1100 souls if the school was sited at Posties. You can find the full discussion here on the ‘Save Dumbarton High Street’ page, if you’re so inclined.
I don’t want this post to be about bashing someone who has an opposing view – after all, this Facebook fellow is presumably a Dumbarton citizen like myself, and therefore entitled to his opinion on this topic. However, I do want to object to the bias that is being demonstrated by some of our local councillors in propagating this myth. For, in doing so, they are not only influencing citizens to back a plan which will involve the loss of a valued green space, but they are also, potentially, building people up for a fall when the supposed transformation of Dumbarton High Street fails to materialise.
So if you hear councillors Rooney, Stewart (McGinty) or McBride going on about how Posties Park is the right choice for this development because it will bring economic value to our High Street, make sure that you ask them to cite their references, and show you the studies or evidence-base to prove their statement.
And, as I said to Eddie Kelly on the Facebook discussion, can anyone really be sure that crowds of kids in our High Street will equate to crowds of shoppers? Will the simple act of putting some teenagers into a nearby area suddenly transform the fortunes of Dumbarton High Street? And the key question – is it really worth gambling with our valued green space on the basis of an unproven theory?