Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Defects found in 19 Edinburgh council buildings

Gracemount Leisure Centre
Image caption Work is under way at Gracemount Leisure Centre in Edinburgh

A new report says 19 council buildings in Edinburgh have defects similar to those found at Oxgangs Primary School.

The Accounts Commission said all councils in Scotland should ensure all buildings in their care are regularly checked and properly maintained.

Part of an external wall at Oxgangs Primary collapsed during a storm in January 2016.

Edinburgh City Council said it "fully acknowledged" the need for "regular, comprehensive structural assessments".

Nine tonnes of masonry fell from Oxgangs Primary during the storm and 17 schools across Edinburgh were forced to close amid concerns over building standards with 7,600 pupils affected.

Lack of scrutiny

A previous independent report by architect Prof John Cole found it was just "a matter of timing and luck" that no children were killed or injured at Oxgangs.

The school was one of 17 built as part of a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme by Edinburgh Schools Partnership.

A new report by the public spending watchdog said that by the end of January this year, 154 properties had been checked in the city, with 19 found to have "issues similar to those identified at Oxgangs School".

They included libraries, community centres and care homes.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Concerns were first raised when a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary School during high winds in January 2016

The Accounts Commission said the discovery of the faults "signifies the importance of all councils in Scotland undertaking regular, comprehensive structural risk assessments and inspections on public buildings to ensure the safety of service users".

Following the collapse at Oxgangs Primary, it was found that ties needed to connect the walls to steel beams had not been used in some cases, leaving them unstable in heavy winds.

The report said remedial work to address the defects identified in the council buildings was ongoing, and that the buildings affected included ones funded using traditional methods, as well as through PPP and the more recent non-profit distributing model.

Budget pressure

It stressed the "need for councils to ensure that standards of quality and service" in building standards are maintained, despite the pressure on local authority budgets.

Edinburgh City Council's finance and resources committee recently found that £153m was needed over the next five years to tackle the "history of under investment" in the authority's estate - with this money being made available for work starting in 2018-19.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A report found it was "a matter of timing and luck" that no children were killed at Oxgangs Primary

The Accounts Commission said the incident at Oxgangs Primary School "revealed serious faults in the procurement, design and construction of the PPP schools covered by this contract" - adding that these could have had "life-threatening consequences".

The report continued: "Defects have been identified in other schools and buildings within the council estate as a result of the work undertaken in response to the Oxgangs incident. These defects are being addressed by the council.

"This incident highlights the importance of regular, comprehensive structural risk assessments and inspections to be undertaken on public buildings to ensure defects are identified and remedied."

'Life-threatening consequences'

Graham Sharp, chairman of the Accounts Commission, said: "The City of Edinburgh Council responded quickly and comprehensively to the wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School. However, all councils in Scotland must ensure public buildings in their care are regularly checked and appropriately maintained.

"While reduced resources mean councils must make difficult decisions about service provision, they should have an appropriate level of expertise to deliver and safely maintain buildings.

"People must have confidence in the safety and integrity of public buildings."

A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said: "We welcome the Accounts Commission's report, which addresses the lessons to be learned by all local authorities following the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary.

"The safety of the public is of utmost importance to the City of Edinburgh Council and we fully acknowledge the need for regular, comprehensive structural assessments of public buildings and are in the process of delivering a series of actions identified by Professor John Cole in an independent report into the closure of Edinburgh schools in 2016."

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