Portobello High delay set to cost council thousands of pounds a day

COUNCIL chiefs are set to fork out more than £4000 a day over a period of years to maintain a dilapidated high school building.

If the city council’s plan to submit a Private Bill to allow the new Portobello High School to be located in Portobello Park is successful, the cost of keeping the current school operational until the new school is built three years later is expected to run to £2.3 million. The cost per school day would be a whopping £4078.

The Evening News revealed last week that council officers have recommended a bid is placed to purchase the former Scottish Power site at Baileyfield to provide a back-up plan should fresh attempts to build the new school on the park not be possible.

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In a report set to be discussed by councillors at Thursday’s full council meeting, Director of Children and Families, Gillian Tee, said delivering a new school on Baileyfield would take almost five years and cost around £2.8m (£2978 per school day), while the remaining fallback option of a phased build on the existing, but extended, site would take nearly seven years and cost an estimated £2.9m – or £2203 per school day.

Chair of Portobello For a New School (PFANS), Sean Watters, said: “The council has already spent a few million in the last few years to keep the school running. It is throwing more good money after bad. The quicker the new school is built, the less money the council will have to spend maintaining the current building.”

The report asks councillors to greenlight the start of a consultation on the introduction of a Private Bill to the parliament early next year to allow the school to be built on the park.

It is intended that the majority of maintenance costs will be funded from the Asset Management Works budgets for the Children and Families estate.

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A previous condition survey report on the current school stated that £5.7m of work was needed back in 2008 to keep the school going for five years, which included windows, external doors and lighting. It is understood that around £3m has been spent.

Meanwhile, Portobello Park Action Group spokeswoman, Alison Connelly, claimed there was “a lot of uncertainty” around the proposal for a Private Bill, and that the council was wasting time and money pursuing it.

The city’s education leader, Paul Godzik, said: “We are conscious that whatever option is chosen, there’s a need to invest in the (current) school and to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of children.”