Local resident Stuart Hay has been in touch to share news that the council has done a deal to sell the Broughton Primary School Annex. The sell off is likely to fund the construction of new classrooms that will be built in the playground that remains.
Apparently, the council has already agreed a deal with a developer with no prior public consultation on the sell off, although it is understood that the sale of the annex will only go through if the buyer also receives planning permission – from the, er, council.
No planning application has been submitted to date, but officials say it is expected within weeks.
Stuart writes: “Edinburgh school rolls are booming, and classrooms are bulging so it appears a strange time for the council to be selling off chunks of it’s educational estate, such as the Broughton Primary School Annex to a developer.
“Alongside news of the sale of the building and part of the school ground, worried parents also learnt of plans to accommodate a rising school roll by building modular classrooms in the playground area.
“This follows the sale of both a car park adjoining the school and some waste ground on Bellevue Road, also for flats. No doubt each sale has helped to fill the black hole in the council’s budget.
“Unfortunately this alarming set of events occurs just before the long school holidays. Hardly good timing for parents to mount a reasonable response.
“News of the overspill plans and annex sale filtered out from a meeting of the PTA with two weeks of term left leaving councillors to make frantic enquiries.
“A planning application for 74 flats is awaited, whilst prefab classrooms remains one of a number of option to accommodate the 2014 school roll, including losing an after school club building. There may also be implications for the preschool nursery building.
“There could be a logical explanation: however, the manner in which the news has leaked out hasn’t been good for the council. Confidence in the education department wasn’t exactly high given determined efforts by the last administration to close two schools near by at the Fort and Bonnington – a decision which now seems shortsighted.
“Officials clearly face unpalatable choices in a time of austerity: However, it appears different parts of the council aren’t talking to each other.
“Why are school buildings in the process of being sold, at the same as time temporary accommodation is needed in response to booming pupil numbers? Is it sensible to shrink a playground whilst at same time making provision for more children? Is it unreasonable to expect joined up thinking and foresight in the way services such schools are managed? Did no one at NHS Lothian tell the education department that there have been a lot babies born in the last five years? Did educational officials ever speak to their planning colleagues who have approved a swathe of new housing in the area?
“Only two years ago officials told the PTA the school was under-subscribed and the annex was surplus. Councillors need to establish how Edinburgh’s mini baby boom has been missed leaving schools like Broughton under pressure.
“Meanwhile, the sale of an annex with little or no parent and community consultation follows the outcry over the Leith Waterworld decision. It seems officials need to be reminded that assets are managed on behalf of the community and therefore genuine and careful consultation is essential – especially when sensitive resources like school buildings are disposed off.
“The Broughton primary school situation must not be seen as complicated because it’s not.
“Only one question needs to be asked: what is best for the children of Broughton? An honest appraisal of the options is needed so parents can be reassured that their children’s well-being is a top priority, even in a time of austerity. Parents also need ask are whether their children’s future is being harmed by council tax freeze, which is leading to short-term decision making to balance the books.”
News of the sale of the annex and temporary classrooms plan, follows the closure of nearby Fort Primary, the sell off of Leith Waterworld, and moves to sell off the nearby Pilrig Children’s and Family Centre.
Meanwhile, rising school rolls have meant that many of the remaining primary schools in the surrounding area will also see new prefabricated classrooms built in their playgrounds.
Indeed, this week the council is to consider, for the second time, planning applications to build five new classrooms in the grounds of Wardie Primary School and four new classrooms at Trinity Primary School.
In response to Stuart’s comments on the Broughton School Annex, Cllr Paul Godzik, council Education Convener, said: “Rising rolls is an issue facing a number of schools across the city, that is why the Capital Coalition have allocated £15m to provide additional accommodation.
“It’s clear that Broughton Primary is facing significant pressure, and there is a need to deliver up to four new classrooms over the next few years, with the first two being needed by 2014.
“The issue was discussed at the cross party Estate Management Working Group last month where the possible use of the McDonald Road building was discussed.
“However, 154 McDonald Road has not been used as a school since the 1960s – and does not meet current requirements. It was briefly considered as a location for the new Gaelic School two years ago, but surveys showed it would cost £5m to return it to school use, and it has deteriorated further since that point. As such the Council has marketed the building for sale which is very near completion.
“A number of solutions are currently being considered, and discussions with both the Parent Council and the school will continue. We are committed to listening to the views of the school community, however we do need a solution that is both affordable and deliverable by 2014.”
The developer said to be buying the annex is Kingsford Estates. Greener Leith called them for comment, but to date they have not responded.
The Annex was originally built in 1904, as the Higher Grade school of what eventually became Broughton High School. The site originally cost £600. The council would not confirm how much they stand to make from the sale of the site nearly 110 years later.