Call for answers on legal row over Edinburgh school which opened 17 months late

COUNCIL chiefs are being pressed for answers on a long-running legal row with the contractors responsible for the new Boroughmuir High School which opened 17 months late.

Boroughmuir High School opened 17 months late.  Pic - Greg Macvean
Boroughmuir High School opened 17 months late. Pic - Greg Macvean

The £35 million school on the bank of the Union Canal at Fountainbridge was originally meant to open in August 2016 but the date was put back six times before it finally opened in February 2018.

The council accused Northern Ireland-based contractors O'Hare & McGovern of letting people down "badly".

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The project building the brand new school in Viewforth, just 500 metres from Boroughmuir’s old building, was the firm's first in Scotland.

Councillor Jason Rust has said the delay is unacceptable

It submitted the cheapest tender for the work and won the contract ahead of other firms with better quality ratings.

Construction work got under way in November 2014 and with the opening set for August 2016.

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But in 2015 it emerged the programme had been delayed by two months due to "challenging" foundation work which had slowed construction.

There was a further delay in February 2016 because of "adverse weather conditions".

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The school under construction

In September 2016, the date was pushed back again because of the amount of work that remained to be done. An internal memo suggested February 2017 for completion.

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But in October 2016 it was said construction would finish in April and the opening date was set for August 2017

Then a handover date was set of June 16 but O'Hare & McGovern informed the council they would be unable to make it, proposing August 11 as an alternative. However, council chiefs said that since the new school year was due to start just six days later, it was in the community's best interests not to rush the completion and the opening was postponed until early 2018.

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The new school boasted a rooftop “growing lab”, outdoor dining space, soundproof dance theatre, recording studio and new classrooms, each with touch-screen interactive boards. And around the full height open-plan atrium were a number of break-out spaces for pupils of all ages to socialise, study or hold meetings.

The legal dispute between the council and the contractor was last discussed by councillors behind closed doors in October 2018.

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When Tory councillor Jason Rust raised the matter this week, an official told the education committee: "Pre-lockdown we were still in legal discussions with the contractor and there has been no communication during the pandemic.”

Councillor Rust said, “This post-project review has now been underway for two years, even longer a period of time than the massive delay to the new school build itself.

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“While I appreciate there may be legal or commercial sensitivities it is unacceptable for there to be such a lack of information forthcoming.

“There were a string of delays to the build and we need to understand what went so wrong with this £35m construction which led to a year of disappointment for the school community.

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"We cannot have a situation whereby a report into the issues encountered is just left on a log with no anticipated date of completion and with no indication as to any progress made.”

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