Comment: Cash-strapped council won’t pause for long

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“I’d urge the [council] to pause and reflect very carefully before it simply plumps for the highest bid.” These are the wise words from Green councillor Melanie Main who was speaking about our story today on the future of the Boroughmuir High School building in Bruntsfield.

The B-listed building will soon be vacant as Edinburgh City Council is building a new facility at nearby Fountainbridge.

The local authority had hoped to bring in close to £5 million from the sale of the current school, a sum that has already been exceeded by a £6.2m offer from the Out of the Blue trust, which wants to turn the building into an arts space featuring studios, performance areas and workshops. A great space transformed into a community use for a price that surpassed the council’s original expectation. That’s a win-win.

But now housebuilder Cala has blown the arts hub bid out of the water with a £14.5m offer.

The reality is that while the council should heed Cllr Main’s words and pause to reflect on the overall merits of both bids, it won’t pause for long.

This is a bid our cash-strapped council will not be able to turn down. The administration needs to offset the cost of the new high school while also facing increasing pressures on the school estate from elsewhere. New schools need to be built while others require significant investment just to be maintained. Remember Liberton.

And the city also needs to find space for new houses as the population of Scotland’s Capital soars.

With a need for further council savings, the desire to find the best solution can often be lost.

The wider community benefit of the proposed Boroughmuir arts hub would stack up well against the increasing pressures on local roads, schools and services. Certainly local residents, if not businesses, would be prefer this option.

But when money is tight, the council will find it harder to look the other way.