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As Sturgeon calls for inquiry...

Architects criticise ‘shoddy’ PPP school buildings

Malcolm FraserArchitects have criticised the public-private agreements to build numerous buildings in recent years, calling the buildings “shoddy” and the process a “dripping roast”.

Professor of architecture Alan Dunlop of Robert Gordon University said he warned that some schools may have to be knocked down and rebuilt.

He said: “I’m not surprised, it was 2005 when I was speaking out about PPP and people were calling me a prophet of doom, but it’s based on experience of 25 years as an architect and it’s to do with the principal problem of the separation of the design team from the client body. Rather than the architect working for the client, the architect works for the contractor.”

He added: “The worst possible scenario? You need to take the school down, or the building down, or the wall down, or the roof down, and reconstruct it – and reconstruct it in a proper way.”

Neil Baxter, secretary of RIAS, called for a return to traditional methods of procurement for major public buildings.

He said: “The fundamental flaw in much PPP procurement is that there’s always been too much focus on the private profit of the building company and a bias in favour of their making money, rather than an extremely high-quality job. Something that was seen as expedient and cost-saving by public authorities has been proven to be an enormous and hugely wasteful abuse of public funds.

“Edinburgh is not the worst. There are shocking instances elsewhere of processes where PPP has created very, very bad buildings which are then on a long-term maintenance contract at a premium price. Because they are such bad buildings – and I’m thinking in particular about school buildings – the kids react against that and vandalise the buildings, the repairs then have to be carried out by the original offending contractor, who by dint of doing something really bad has created a ‘dripping roast’.”

Architect Malcolm Fraser (pictured) said this morning that many of the buildings erected through the public-private system were “shoddy”.

He told the BBC: “They were not good for the public purse and not good for education.”

Their comments followed a call from SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon for a “longer term inquiry” into these deals which are at the centre of the row over the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh.

As efforts were being stepped up to accommodate 9,000 pupils at the defective schools, the SNP leader said: “These were schools built ten or more years ago under a system of PFI that at the time people, including the SNP had real concerns about – concerns being that these contracts prioritised private profit over quality and the interests of pupils.

“If it turns out that this a legacy of those PFI projects, then there will be big questions for those who were in charge at the time to answer.”

Teachers’ union the Educational Institute of Scotland, has also called for a review of all PPP contracts and the Scottish Conservatives  accused the SNP of ignoring calls to make schools submit building reports as part of regular inspections.

The party said it asked three times over the last two years for schools to prove their buildings were up to scratch, as well as the quality of education provided, as part of the inspections regime.

City Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said he is hopeful that some of the 17 schools closed because of structural defects will reopen this week.

Five high schools, ten primaries and two special needs schools were closed on Friday when problems were discovered in two buildings.

Last night the council said it had drawn up contingency plans to ensure all primary and special school pupils will be back in schools by next Monday.

In some cases the alternative arrangements could be in place by Wednesday – subject to the council getting access to the closed schools while the surveys are ongoing.

S4, S5, and S6 pupils from Firrhill, Drummond and Royal High Schools will be able to return to their own schools on Wednesday.

An update for S4, S5 and S6 pupils at Gracemount and Craigmount High schools will be made tomorrow once arrangements are finalised.

Council officials are surveying the buildings with priority given to secondaries whose pupils are due to take exams.

It is hoped that contingency arrangements for three other schools – Oxgangs, St Peter’s and Braidburn – will remain in place.

The council said it had received several offers of support from across the city, including Edinburgh university which was willing to make its facilities available.

The Scottish Government is expected to provide help to complete any necessary repair work.

Mr Kerr said that contingency arrangements should be in place by end of Tuesday.

DB Media Services advertIn a statement at the weekend he said he had sought assurances from Edinburgh Schools Partnership that their ongoing programme of inspections “would give us the confidence to reopen our schools.

“I have offered to help them secure the necessary resources to complete this as quickly as possible.

“I also reminded them of their contractual and financial obligations and want to assure Edinburgh residents that they will not be left footing the bill.”

All 17 of the affected schools were built or refurbished under the public private partnership (PPP1) agreement.

The capital’s £360 million PPP1 deal – finalised in 2001 – created a PFI consortium called the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which includes Miller Construction and the Bank of Scotland.

Construction firm Galliford Try, which acquired Miller Constrution in 2014,  said today the cost of its exposure to the schools issue was “not material to the group”.

The company said it had contractual responsibility for four of the schools. It added that remedial work to fix those schools was nearing completion.

The full list of schools affected: Braidburn, Broomhouse Primary, Castleview Primary, Craigour Park Primary, Craigmount High, Craigroyston Primary, Drummond Community High, Firrhill High, Forthview Primary, Gracemount High, Oxgangs Primary School, Pirniehill Primary, Rowanfield, Royal High, St David’s Primary, St Joseph’s Primary and St Peters RC Primary.

 

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