Bid to halt school plan
Education chiefs at St Columba's School want to build a new facility at the edge of Milton - also known as Duchal Woods.
But the proposals, which also include the creation of an access road, community car park and pedestrian footbridge, have prompted fury among villagers who argue it would pave the way for a major housing development.
A group calling themselves the Neighbours of Milton Wood say the development would be built on protected greenbelt land.
And they say the proposed buildings encroach on woodland in a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). Ralph Leishman, a 56-year-old spokesman for the Kilmacolm protest group - which has also set up a Facebook campaign page called Save Milton (Duchal) Woods - said: "There are quite a few objections to the school development, but what everyone is really up in arms about is that there is a housing development being pushed through on its coat-tails.
"The big issue is the traffic which will be generated, not just by the school, but by up to 50 houses which could be built at a later stage."
Community figures claim Lord Maclay of Duchal Estates is keen to sell the greenbelt land to a housing developer to pay for the upkeep of A-listed Duchal House.
But education bosses insist there is nowhere else in the village for them to expand.
In the outline planning application for the school extension, the transport assessment says: "Duchal Estate is independently promoting the possible future use of land to the south of the school's application site for possible residential development.
"A component part of this transportation assessment (required by the estate as part of the sale of the land to the school), has been to assess the capacity and technical aspects of the proposed access road and junction arrangement to provide access to both the school's development, and a potential aspirational future residential development of up to 50 units on land lying to the south of the school's site."
But few people will be aware of the detail in the document which was only added in recent days and outlines possible future plans.
Mr Leishman, added: "There is quite a view from residents in the village that this is a sneaky way of pushing the housing plans through."
Colin McLatchie, chairman of St Columba's school board, insisted only four trees would be felled and Inverclyde Council has already allowed building on greenbelt for educational purposes.
He said: "I came to this village 28 years ago and Lord Maclay was trying put housing into Duchal Woods then.
"Whether our application goes ahead or not he will continue to try and put in housing.
"We don't have another site to go to, if this application gets turned down it will be hugely detrimental to the long term future of the school and the village."