No promises made over new Borders schools

Council leader Shona Haslam has said ‘it would be silly of me to make any promises’ over the council’s high school rebuilding programme, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:19 pm
Councillor leader Shona Haslam at Peebles High School.
Councillor leader Shona Haslam at Peebles High School.

Last year, it was agreed that Galashiels, Hawick, Selkirk and Peebles high schools will be rebuilt in that order, as part of a major capital expenditure programme by Scottish Borders Council.

A replacement for the 1,300-pupil Peebles High School, costing £92m for a like-for-like upgrade or £128m for an all-age campus, was not due to open until 2032.

However, a devastating fire in November led councillors and local education officers to look at a new Peebles High School as a priority.

A £100,000 options appraisal agreed in December is now under way and it is expected to lead to Peebles not having to wait another 12 years for a new high school.

A public consultation was held in March, but the results have not yet been published.

Now, the rebuilding of the high school could face delays and increased costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked whether delays were a certainty, councillor Haslam, who lives in Peebles, said: “I really hope not. Construction costs as a result of Covid have risen around 15 per cent, this will obviously have an impact on the projects that the council are undertaking.

“But we remain committed to providing the best quality buildings for our children and young people to learn in. We are doing a piece of work at the moment to understand the impact of Covid on our budget and our capital plan so that we can understand the implications.

“It is not going to be easy and I make no bones about that, but we will do absolutely everything that we can to make sure that our building projects remain on schedule.”

“We are still discussing with the Scottish Government the funding that is available for the school projects.

“We were due to have a decision in the autumn but this has been delayed by the Scottish Government.”

With Gala, Hawick and Selkirk set to receive brand new high schools, councillor Haslam was asked whether the construction of those schools would be delayed.

The council leader said: “Covid is affecting everything that we do, and we just don’t know what the long term impact of this will have on our budgets and our capital plan.

“At the moment we are planning for a second wave and we are a long way from this being over.

“I really really hope that we can keep on track with all of our building projects but at this point it would be silly of me to make anyone any promises.”