Building work can now begin on the £9m shared campus for Aitkenbar and St Peter’s Primaries.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s Planning Committee voted five to three in favour of accepting the proposals.

Aitkenbar Primary Parent Council made a last minute intervention to try and persuade committee members to reject the application, objecting to plans for separate entrances. The school will be built on the empty St Peter’s site after closed at the end of last term, with its pupils moved into Aitkenbar during the construction period.

A new early education centre will also be built to replace the existing Andrew B Cameron and St Peter’s centres, with work is expected to be completed in 2016.

However, plans to build a new shared campus in Bellsmyre have no been without controversy.

The agreement to have separate entrances was branded “a backward step” in the battle against sectarianism by Aitkenbar Primary Parent Council.

Earlier this year, the Reporter broke the news there would be separate public entrances and staff rooms for Aitkenbar and St Peter’s Primaries.

In the letter, the parent council outline its concerns with the plans and their lack of consultation.

It states: “The final vision and plans, shared at our joint meeting by Mr Terry Lanagan, director of Education, highlighted a shared public reception space, which would be the central hub of the campus, directing visitors to their respective schools. “This was a secure public entrance at the front of the building, and a statement of unity within the Bellsmyre community.

“Children would enter their respective schools at the rear of the building, lining up at age appropriate entrances to the seven classrooms within each school. We were advised by Mr Lanagan at this point that there was no funding available to alter the plans, as both St Peter’s and Aitkenbar parent council requested an additional classroom in order to ‘future proof’ both schools.” The letter goes on to say: “We as the Parent Council of Aitkenbar Primary School strongly object to these changes as we feel multiple public entrances compromise the safety of our children and we believe it to be a backward step in the fight against sectarianism, wholeheartedly supporting Canon Gerry Conroy’s vision of ‘a community benefiting through the positive influence of people of faith living harmoniously together’. In our opinion this proposal would be of no educational benefit to the children of either school and would encourage segregation, rather than integration, between the pupils in shared space areas.” It continues: “This change sends conflicting messages to pupils if they are expected to integrate, but adults are to be kept separate.” However, a spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council reiterated the authority’s position at the time, stating the guidelines set out by the church have to be adhered to.

She added: “The Catholic Church’s protocol on shared campuses requires certain facilities, including entrances and staffrooms, to be provided separately to emphasise the fact that there are two distinct schools sharing the same campus.

“St Peter’s and Aitkenbar primaries work very closely together and the shared campus will enable this strong relationship to grow. The schools will share a number of facilities including playgrounds, sporting facilities, a dining area and an assembly hall.” This week, she added: “The council has no plans at this time to submit an amended planning application. The normal consultation and dialogue with parents as the school is developed will now continue. The council is pleased that investment in a new school can now proceed and we look forward to it opening in August 2016.”