Primary school construction in limbo after costs jump by over £26m 

Outstanding work on a new Aberdeen primary school was 'significantly over budget' and had to be paused.

Aberdeen primary school construction in limbo after costs jump by more than £26m  iStock

The fate of an Aberdeen school has been left in doubt after a decision on progressing works was put off.

Council officers had recommended that work be paused on the new Tillydrone primary school due to rising costs.

Drainage and ground works have been completed but officers noted that the outstanding work was “significantly over budget”.

Costs for the replacement Riverbank School, which will have a sports pitch, outdoor classroom and sensory garden, have jumped up by £9.9m to £36.2m.

Members of the city council’s city growth and resources committee met on Wednesday and were asked to put the project out for re-tendering to get the “best value” for the council.

But the move would lead to a four to six month delay, meaning the opening date would be around August 2024, instead of Easter.

It would also have a knock-on impact for youngsters at St Peters RC Primary, who are due to move into the existing school following a refurbishment.

Resources director Steve Whyte told committee members that the school project “absolutely has to go ahead” but said the council had to look at how it moves forward with it.

He noted that there would be “risks” to going back out to tender and warned the price could be higher than it is at the moment.

Committee convener councillor Alex McLellan moved a motion to agree with the officer recommendations and said: “We’d all like to press on and get everything done for our communities but we need to be realistic.

“We have difficult decisions to make given the external factors whether that be the pandemic, Brexit or the war in Ukraine.

“We will deliver a primary school for Tillydrone – that’s certainly not in question.

“Our decision is to go out and re-tender to allow us to get competitive quotes to ensure best value for the council and that will take a period of time.”

However, an amendment was made by Conservative councillor Michael Kusznir, in place of councillor Ryan Houghton.

He said: “As a group we recognise the smorgasbord of pressures that are at play currently for council resources as the war in Ukraine drives up prices alongside rising inflation and other factors.

“Yet the new administration was left with a positive cash position to face these challenges.

“It seems like not even 12 weeks into being an administration the SNP and Liberal Democrats want to take an abattoir hand to key capital projects.”

Meanwhile Councillor Ross Grant proposed a further amendment and said he was “not convinced” the council would get a better price for the construction work.

He said: “My son is a pupil of Riverbank. The delay will mean that he and his friends will not ever enjoy the benefits of a state-of-the-art school facility.

“These children have been promised something that, as far as I was aware until this week, was achievable.

“There needs to be immediate engagement with the parent and school community because I think they are under very different impressions of where this school is.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is will be a significant blow to residents and the school community.

“This is something that will cause them great concern and is something that would be a huge regret.”

Mr Ross also noted the impact the delay would have on St Peter’s RC School.

He said: ”We know that school is a category C ‘poor’ condition and I’m sure all members of the committee agree that they deserve a better facility.”

Backing Mr McLellan’s motion to go with the officer recommendations, council co-leader councillor Ian Yuill said “going back to the market is the best thing to do”.

He added: “This partnership is absolutely committed to building a new school for Tillydrone and on the timescales that we’ve had confirmed today it will open in 2024 which is very welcome.”

However after Mr McLellan’s motion was passed, five committee members requested that the decision be referred to full council.

The matter will be debated by councillors again later this month.

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