Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Four more Edinburgh schools found with building defects

Oxgangs Primary School Image copyright Annemarie Pearson
Image caption Checks were ordered after nine tonnes of masonry collapsed at Oxgangs Primary during Storm Gertrude

Defects have been found at four more Edinburgh schools during inspections ordered after a wall collapse led to safety fears.

Currie, Towerbank and Cramond primary schools are being fixed in the summer. Problems at Queensferry High School, have already been rectified.

Previously 17 schools were closed after a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary highlighted construction faults.

Defects have also been found at Valley Park Community Centre.

The defects were discovered through the local authority's city-wide building investigation, ordered after about nine tonnes of masonry collapsed at the Oxgangs site during Storm Gertrude in January 2016.

Initial investigations in schools built as part of the same Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme found ties needed to connect the walls to steel beams had not been used in some cases, leaving them unstable in heavy winds.

The city council temporarily shut 17 schools after operator Edinburgh Schools Partnership said it was unable to provide safety assurances for the properties.

An expert report into the problems found it was down to timing and luck that no deaths or injuries occurred in the Oxgangs collapse as children could easily have been standing in or passing through the area.

Image copyright Scott Arthur
Image caption High winds caused damage to Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh Council's head of property facilities management Peter Watton revealed the latest defects while giving evidence to MSPs.

Questioned on the PPP deal at Holyrood's Education Committee, Mr Watton said: "I'm absolutely 100% prepared to admit that, at that time, the council got it wrong."

Committee convener James Dornan said: "That's not getting it wrong, that's fundamentally missing the whole point of what you were there to do.

"That's not making a mistake, that's making an absolutely huge error of incredible proportions."

The five buildings most recently identified with defects were built outwith PPP schemes but were found through the council's estate-wide structural review.

Mr Watton said: "We're carrying out intrusive surveys, as a result of that we've identified five properties that have similar issues, not identical, it's not the same extent.

"It's mostly, for example, in a (wall) panel there should be, let's say, 100 wall ties and there's only 80, but we've adopted a very risk-averse approach, as I'm sure you could appreciate, and we are remediating in those circumstances."

Questioned if PPP contractors had cut corners deliberately, Mr Whatton's counterpart at Aberdeenshire Council, Allan Whyte, said: "It would appear so, yes."

He said: "There was probably far too much work on, there was harsh penalties for failing to complete on time and, because of that, that impacted on the quality."

He said it was "horrendous" but now the industry has matured and is no longer in the same situation.

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