'We cannot continue to send them in to be educated in dilapidated buildings', say parents campaigning for long-promised new primary school in Beauly
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Concerned parents in a Highland community are calling for a clear plan in the provision a long-promised new primary school amid fears it could face further delays.
Parents at Beauly Primary School say the ageing and dilapidated buildings are in desperate need of replacing.
They cite a catalogue of concerns including substandard buildings, safety fears after a classroom ceiling fell in, asbestos on a flat-roof classroom building, inadequate heating and a growing local population.
But a letter from Highland Council has triggered alarm that plans for a new school could be delayed.
It states: "Rising costs, as a result of global and national circumstances, have impacted on construction projects across the UK in recent weeks and months.
"The cost pressures facing the construction industry means the delivery of any planned projects, within the previously determined time frames and budgets is becoming more challenging."
The letter states the council will be working with partners, contractors and the Scottish Government to find solutions to keep costs affordable and ensure the new school building is delivered to a high standard.
It also says design work is ongoing ahead of a full planning application being submitted early in 2023 and two new modular units are due to be installed in the autumn enabling a classroom block to be vacated.
But parents question the timing of the letter on the last day of the school term and they are now stepping up the pressure to ensure the project is not delayed.
Lynsay Boyle, chairwoman of the school’s parent council, said Beauly was among nine Highland schools which had received similar letters.
"It says to me there is not enough money in the pot to go forward with all these proposals," Mrs Boyle said.
She said plans had been in place for a new school to be delivered in 2019 but disappeared from the council’s capital investment programme in 2017.
"We have been promised a new school for years and years and have been overlooked," she said, adding the children deserved a new school
"We cannot continue to send them in to be educated in dilapidated buildings, with damp, mould and dodgy windows that don’t close properly.
"This has to be the last winter they will need to sit in a canteen wearing their jackets to eat their lunch, because it is freezing with windows that they cannot see out of as the condensation runs down them."
Lauren Anderson, who will have three children at the school from August, has safety concerns, citing the collapse of a classroom ceiling in recent months.
"If Highland Council does not provide safe and adequate provision for our young people, then the fear is that there will be an imminent serious accident," she said.
She also said Beauly was earmarked as one of the fastest growing communities in the Highlands but felt it continued to be disregarded regarding funding.
"It is not good enough any more and we would like a clear plan of how and when these provisions are going to be met," she said.
Siobhan Grieger, who has two children at the school, voiced a range of concerns including birds picking at the flat-roof of a classroom block containing asbestos and dropping bits around the playground.
A key healthcare worker, she also said there was a critical lack of child care in the village but although parents had pressed for an after school club she said there was not enough space in the current building to accommodate it.
"Children in Beauly are being treated as second class citizens by Highland Council and it is unacceptable," she said.
A Highland Council spokeswoman said members agreed a review of the capital programme after the summer to look at the phasing of the programme of works for the council’s capital projects.
The council currently has 10 major school projects under way, either new builds or extensions, which are due to be completed within the first five years (2022/23 to 2026/27) of the capital programme approved in December 2021.