Huge repairs backlog in 23 Edinburgh schools may see temporary closures

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MORE than 20 city schools are among 80 council-owned buildings officially listed as being in poor or bad condition, with major defects and in need of urgent attention.

And council chiefs have warned not all the necessary work can be done during school holidays, raising the prospect of some pupils having to move to temporary accommodation in term time.

Other council buildings in poor condition include the City Chambers, Central Library and eight community centres.

A council report admits investment in maintenance of council property has been allowed to decline steadily over the past two decades.

It identifies a backlog of £153 million worth of work to be done and warns of “significant health and safety implications” if the backlog is not tackled.

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin pledged more money would be allocated to deal with the problem and said top priority would be given to making sure buildings were safe and wind and watertight.

A survey found that out of 560 operational buildings, 480 were in category A or B – “good” or “satisfactory”. But 71 were in category C – “poor, showing major defects and/or not operating adequately”. And nine were in category D – “bad, economic life expired and/or risk of failure”.

The report says a total of £36.6m capital spending should be spent in 2018-19, based on the condition survey, but adds that the time needed to mobilise designs and secure consents means less than half of that – £18m – is likely to be feasible.

And it warns the council must introduce a planned maintenance programme for the long term. “New buildings with more sophisticated mechanical and electrical systems, particularly in the schools’ estate, will very quickly deteriorate if this remains unaddressed.”

Cllr Rankin said he wanted to see schools and community centres removed from the worst categories. “They will be towards the top of the priority list,” he said.

“When it comes to school buildings, all the necessary work cannot be done during holiday times. There might be temporary measures put in place to minimise disruption. It might mean children going, on a temporary basis, to another school or using some temporary accommodation.”

In other cases, a rolling programme would allow pupils to move to another part of the same building while work was carried out.

“We need to deal with the most serious difficulties as soon as possible and put in place a planned maintenance programme so we don’t get into this situation again.”

He said he hoped to invest more in the first year than the £18m proposed in the report.

Tory councillor Andrew Johnson said the poor state of the council’s property was “a ticking time bomb”.

He said: “Given what has happened in Edinburgh in recent years we have to take this very seriously.

“I wonder what the administration was doing over the last five years to allow this problem to build up. The last thing we want is any accidents.”

Green finance spokesman Gavin Corbett said: “Over the last 40 or 50 years, too much attention has been paid to big new build or refurbished buildings and too little to the less glamorous tasks of routine maintenance.”

FULL LIST OF AFFECTED SCHOOLS

Blackhall Primary School

Boroughmuir High School

Broughton Primary School

Castlebrae High School

Craiglockhart Primary School

Currie High School

Duddingston Primary School

East Craigs Primary School

Echline Primary School

Fox Covert RC Primary School

James Gillespie’s Primary School

Lorne Primary School

Murrayburn Primary School

Queensferry High School

Queensferry Primary School

Sciennes Primary School

St Catherine’s RC Primary School – main building

St Crispin’s Special School – main building

St Mary’s (Leith) RC Primary School

Trinity Academy

Trinity Primary School

Wester Hailes Education Centre