City faces schools crisis over LDP funds gap

Currie Primary School
Currie Primary School
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Schools will be left bursting at the seams unless the Capital can fill a multi-million pound funding gap, a new report has revealed.

Five new schools and 17 extensions are needed to cater for thousands of families expected to move into homes proposed under the delayed local development plan (LDP).

Housebuilders are expected to contribute financially to the education infrastructure – but the council document has shown that the offering is likely to come up short.

That would leave the council with a huge bill to fund the necessary school places.

And officials admitted in the report that the impact could be “catastrophic”, leaving classrooms crammed and parents forced to ship their children out of their catchment area.

The report outlines fears that the scale of the housing needs on the outskirts of the city – with 32,000 homes required by 2024 – means that developers will not offer as much cash for schools or road improvements as previously thought.

The document adds that there is “currently no provision in the council’s long-term financial plan” to fund the school places.

According to the children and families department’s risk assessment, there is a 61 to 80 per cent likelihood of a funding shortfall, leaving the council “unable to fulfil obligations” resulting in a “severe loss of confidence and public outcry”.

Edinburgh West MSP Colin Keir said preparatory work by the council had been substandard. He said: “You would think that when you’re receiving 
prospective planning applications, the first thing you would do is ask, ‘how can these developments be made sustainable?’

“You cannot just dump down a whole load of houses and hope that it’s going to work.”

The LDP will not be voted on by councillors until after the election.

The current planning blueprint is also believed to be thousands of homes short of the 32,000 required and may have to be completely redrawn.

The Conservatives’ planning spokeswoman, Councillor Joanna Mowat, said the entire LDP process had been flawed.

She said: “The LDP is the biggest decision we take as a council, but as a council we haven’t engaged with it particularly well, and this seems to be coming through in documents such as these. That we have taken so long to work this out really doesn’t help.”

Planning convener Cllr Ian Perry said the cost of providing infrastructure was “considerable” but added that feasibility work to set out school building costs and new catchment areas was budgeted for.

Cllr Perry said: “The associated costs are considerable and the council will continue to work with the development industry to understand what contribution they can make, before programming projects and spending public money.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com