MORE than £1 million has been spent on plans for a new community school – despite no signs of work starting on the building.
The city council has been criticised over stalled proposals for the new school in Craigmillar – originally set to be opened in 2008 – after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed how much has already been spent on the proposal.
Angry parents blasted the spending as paying for nothing more than “pretty pictures of a fantasy school” and said they feared the new facility may never be built.
despite there being no sign of the new school, however, the council insisted it remained “a priority”, although the latest suggested date for completion is ten years behind schedule.
Mother-of-three Lyndsay Martin, whose 16-year-old daughter, Shannon Nolan, is about to start sixth year at Castlebrae Community High School, said parents and pupils had been promised a new school by the council for the last decade.
The initial plan was that the school would open by 2007-8 but, five years on, there is still no sign of building work.
Mrs Martin, who lives in Craigmillar, said she now feared the school may never be built. She has refused to send her 11-year-old son, Steven Lorimer, to Castlebrae, instead opting for Holyrood High School, with several parents following suit.
The 34-year-old, a former Castlebrae pupil, said parents had been told at a recent meeting that the council-backed development firm Parc had spent more than £1m on costs related to the proposed new school, which would be built in 2018.
Mrs Martin then submitted an FOI request to the city council and Parc to seek information on what the money had been spent on and to confirm when the new school would be built.
She said: “The city council cannot even say when, if ever, the new school is to be built and how it is to be paid for. The city council and Parc have made cruel, false promises to parents, and squandered a million pounds on expensive consultants drawing pretty pictures of a fantasy school. The money would have been far better spent supporting the work of the existing school.”
In its FOI response, Parc confirmed that in 2007 it estimated the school – which at that time was to also include a public library and leisure facility – would cost almost £32m.
Company lawyer Catherine Stone said: “Parc originally envisaged that the entire cost of the school would be funded out of profits from the wider Craigmillar regeneration. However, with the economic downturn, this may no longer be the case.”
The new school was intended to form an important part of the redeveloped Craigmillar town centre, at a new site off Niddrie Mains Road.
But the council’s FOI case manager Sue Galloway confirmed that “planning permission for the school design was never sought as the project was put on hold”.
The economic downturn has seen delivery of new housing in Craigmillar come to a standstill. The lack of new housing means the population in Craigmillar and at Castlebrae remains low, and the profits expected to cover the costs of a replacement high school have not been forthcoming.
Ms Galloway said: “It is currently considered unlikely that the full level of housing would be achieved until 2020 at the earliest.”