Figures do not tell the whole story - council

AN ACTION group which has been campaigning against a new £8 million school at Hospitalfield say the cost for refurbishing Timmergreens and Muirfield has been “grossly over-estimated”.

On Thursday, the proposal to merge the two primary schools on the new site in the west of town will go before Angus Council for approval.

But the local authority has defended the plan for the new school at Hospitalfield saying the principle of refurbishing the two existing schools has been thoroughly assessed by the council.

And they say upgrading Timmergreens and Muirfield would also not help to improve new learning and teaching opportunities.

But the Muirfield Action Group, which is opposed to the move, has argued that the cash set aside for the new build should be used to upgrade all of the school estate in Arbroath instead.

And now they claim that figures obtained by the group under a freedom of information request, show that Warddykes Primary is actually the school in most need of repair, despite not being involved in the first phase of the Arbroath schools improvement project.

The figures, which are a breakdown of costings for improving schools, that the group have been given show that Warddykes Primary would need £835,600 spent on it to bring it up to full repair.

This is in comparison to Muirfield which would require £528,000 and Timmergreens which would need £774,000.

In addition Ladyloan would need £426,000, while Inverbrothock requires £76,000. No figures were given for Hayshead or St Thomas.

Ewan Smith, who is a member of the Muirfield group, has argued that all primary schools in Arbroath should be upgraded rather than just two.

And he believes that with the cash available, the figures show that it could be possible.

He explained: “We have long suspected that the costings for bringing our school back to a good state of repair had been grossly over-estimated.

“It is clear that the school in most urgent need of repair is Warddykes, not Muirfield. The list of issues relating to that building and that of Timmergreens is far more extensive and expensive than Muirfield’s problems.

“What is also clear is that claims in the consultation report that the school estate couldn’t be improved as a whole by dividing the £8 million are also inaccurate.

“Even allowing for costly improvements for Hayshead and St Thomas, which is regarded by Angus Council as the best conditioned school in Arbroath, there would be well in excess of £5 million for these repairs and for potential expansion of Hayshead and Inverbrothock.”

However, a council spokeswoman explained that these figures only relate to building work and not any maintenance and repair work which would also be required.

She said: “In the case of the existing Muirfield and Timmergreens primary schools, refurbishment to improve the condition and suitability of these facilities would cost in the region of £8.4 million and would require each school to be decanted.

“The costs given to Mr Smith under his FOI request only relate to specific items of building maintenance and repair identified by site surveys to inform the building maintenance works programme.

“They do not include any maintenance or repair works to the building services, including the existing heating and ventilation systems.

“It is also likely there would be significant technical difficulties upgrading the existing buildings to current regulatory standards.

“The physical designs of the existing schools could not be significantly improved to support new opportunities in learning and teaching, particularly in the context of a Curriculum for Excellence.”

The decision on whether the new school at Hospitalfied should go ahead goes to a crucial council vote next week by councillors. If approved it will then be passed to the Scottish Government for consideration. Mr Smith along with Kevin Barthorpe, a resident of the Timmergreens area, will both address the meeting with their views.