City crisis as cost of just two schools hits £53m

Gracemount Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
Gracemount Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
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Construction of two badly needed schools is set to land the city with a £53 million bill – almost half of which would be interest payments.

The primaries will be required in Gilmerton and Liberton to cater for 2000 new homes due to be built over the next decade.

Housing developers will make a financial contribution – but this is expected to make up just £14m of the £46m needed, a council report has revealed.

It means city chiefs will have to ask the Scottish Government for a bailout or loan of £32m.

Interest payments would top £21m, with one councillor saying a “bottomless pit” would be required for the 32,000 homes needed in the Capital by 2024.

Without two new schools, immense pressure would be put on Gilmerton and Gracemount primaries to cope with the influx of new families.

The scale of the financial challenge facing the city was revealed as councillors debated a planning application for 61 homes at Gilmerton Dykes.

Elected officials on the development management sub-
committee yesterday voted to hold a public hearing to determine if the housebuilders’ contribution of £610,000 could be increased, or if a deal could be reached which would see the council given a share of developers’ profits on top of upfront contributions.

A senior council figure told the Evening News that the scale of the funding gap had reached crisis point.

The source said: “The council is under incredible pressure to provide this additional housing, but the money to build the infrastructure isn’t there.

“If the funds aren’t coming from developers, and they can’t come from the council, a frank discussion needs to be had with the Scottish Government.

“If we can’t build the schools and roads, then we can’t build the homes.”

Officials at yesterday’s committee meeting admitted that with school rolls set to rise until 2030, city-wide classroom capacity of 32,000 places would be insufficient to meet demand.

Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who sits on the committee, said: “These are fantasy figures that the council will never be able to meet. It’s a bottomless pit.

“The Scottish Government needs to realise that it can’t demand we build that much new housing without providing help with the infrastructure.”

A spokeswoman for Gilmerton Dykes developers Miller Homes said: “We recognise the significance of infrastructure issues and we look forward to meeting with members to take them through the figures that were previously submitted and accepted by officials in support of our application.”

City planning convener Ian Perry said: “Clearly the council is facing a major challenge to fund all the infrastructure, including schools and roads, to support Edinburgh’s growth.

“The associated costs are considerable and the council will continue to work with the development industry to understand what contribution they can make.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com