New use found for Edinburgh's oldest working primary school

A new use has been found for a historic primary school in Newhaven thanks to a £792,000 community grant.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 4:45 pm

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Provided by the Scottish Land Fund, the cash will allow the newly formed local charity Heart of Newhaven Community to purchase Victoria Primary School and turn it into a vibrant community hub.

Currently the oldest working primary in the city, the school is due to move to new premises in the Autumn.

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Funds have been sourced to find a new community use for historic Victoria Primary School.

There had been debate over what to do with the 1844 building following the school’s relocation.

The charity won the right to purchase the building from Edinburgh City Council under the Community Asset Transfer scheme, but redevelopments were halted when Covid-19 hit, causing disruption to construction of the new school.

Now, with funding confirmed the project can move forward and bring “much needed” preschool facilities, work spaces for local artists and community groups to Newhaven.

This news is even better than we hoped

Members of the Heart of Newhaven Community.

Heart of Newhaven Community chairperson Rodney Matthews was delighted when the news of the funding was announced.

“This news is even better than we hoped at the time of our original application long before the set-backs we have experienced over the past 18 months,” he said.

“We have been granted a total of £792,000 which will cover the purchase price agreed with CEC and help cover some initial developmental costs.

“This will enable us to sign a contract with Edinburgh City Council to give us vacant possession of the site as soon as the children have moved into their new school in Western Harbour.

“While that date is still unknown we are now able to move confidently forward with plans for what can now safely be called The Heart.”.

The Gothic style listed building includes a relatively unchanged interior including original dado panelling, cast iron banisters and stone stairs and a double height hall. But the playground contains a modern, purpose-built addition in the form of the Anchor Building which opened in 2014 after the exciting discovery under the playground of the skeleton of someone who may have been a 16th century pirate.

Plans for the community hub announced

During lockdown the charity has moved forward with various community projects.

“Partnership working and collaboration with other local organisations is a critical element of our approach,” said project coordinator Judy Crabb.

“We have already started to build important relationships with like-minded organisations through a series of small intergenerational projects including working with Men’s Shed of Leith, Pilmeny Development Project, and local artist Johnathan Elders to create Friendship Benches to go in the grounds of the Heart.

“Other initiatives include Pots of Newhaven kindness - pots sown with seeds to produce edible plants given by children from Victoria Primary School to local, housebound older people.”

As part of their campaign, the charity held a Crowdfunding appeal earlier this year and raised their initial target of £5,000 in only three weeks.

“This is a brilliant project that will deliver huge community benefits. It's well thought-out and is being impressively well-organised,” said one anonymous donor.

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