Vandals rack up £180k bill at old schools

Vandalism at the former Bonnington Primary School
Vandalism at the former Bonnington Primary School
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ALMOST £180,000 has been spent on security and repairs at the seven city primary schools closed by council bosses since 2009.

New figures reveal that leaving the buildings lying empty for months – and even years – following the school closures has racked up huge bills that have had to be met by the council.

The costs are associated with the four schools closed last summer – Fort, Burdiehouse, Drumbrae and Royston – as well as the three closed in the previous year’s round of school closures, Bonnington, Lismore and Westburn. A total of £177,247 has had to be spent on rectifying reported vandalism, security, “reactive repairs” and “preventative maintenance”.

The largest amount of money – £64,528 – has been spent on Bonnington Primary, which has been lying empty since it closed in January 2009.

The building in Leith has been retained by the council as it has been earmarked for the city’s first dedicated Gaelic school.

Figures revealed to the Evening News under freedom of information laws show that £33,500 has been spent on security at the site in the past year alone, while £15,751 has been spent on repairing reported vandalism.

However, damage at Bonnington runs far deeper than this, with a recent building survey showing “serious deterioration” in the condition of the building as a “direct result” of vandalism and damage to the roof, which means £3.6 million will need to be spent to bring it back into use as a school.

Councillor Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman, said: “It’s obviously of some concern when you see the amount of vandalism that has been carried out and the damage that it has resulted in.

“The council has got to look at whether it’s got a future use for the sites.

“In some situations that has been the case, but the council does have to secure the sites and steps have to be taken to minimise damage. Certainly, that has not been the case at Bonnington.”

Royston has now been demolished and a new community centre is being built on the site. Burdiehouse has also been demolished, as has Drumbrae, where a new care home is being built.

A children’s respite centre is being built on the Lismore site, while Westburn Primary has been converted into a new community facility, which includes a library, community centre and accommodation for Stevenson College.

Fort Primary is still being used by the council. Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, the city’s education leader, said: “It is essential that we keep hold of these properties whilst the market is poor in order to sell at the right time and get the best value for the taxpayer.

“However, the mindless acts of vandalism which the schools have suffered cost a great deal of money to put right.

“In recent months we have seen a unique wave of vandalism and theft from council-owned buildings, costing the taxpayer thousands in repair bills.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com