Five schools face repairs due to wall ‘defects’

Hill of Banchory School
Hill of Banchory School

Five Aberdeenshire schools - including one in Banchory - have been found to have structural defects similar to those in Edinburgh, which resulted in 17 closures last year.

Safety concerns were raised in the capital following the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary in January, 2016. Nine tonnes of masonry fell at the school during a storm.

An investigation into the incident found that wall cavities were not uniform, there had not been enough wall ties used, and the wrong type had been employed.

A major Scotland-wide investigation by local authorities was then launched to determine if the problem affected school buildings across the country.

And in April, it emerged the defects were present in 72 more schools, in addition to the 17 in Edinburgh.

Many of the buildings were constructed in the 1990s to mid-2000s through public private partnership (PPP) or private finance initiative (PFI) schemes.

A new report which will be considered by Aberdeenshire councillors today (Thursday) has now revealed there are similar defects at Portlethen and Meldrum academies, along with Hill of Banchory, Kintore and Longside primaries.

However, the contractor responsible, Robertson Group, has said there are no immediate safety concerns for the North-east schools affected.

A spokesperson for Robertson Group said: “Following concerns elsewhere we proactively carried out surveys on all our school buildings.

“During these surveys some minor remedial works were recommended, however, there is no emergency or legal requirement for these works. There is currently no immediate risk to structural safety or building integrity.

“The affected schools were notified and remedial works have either already occurred or are scheduled to take place. This will be at no cost, or cause any inconvenience, to the local authorities concerned.

“We have a responsibility to maintain these schools - across the lifetime of the contract - ensuring their continued safety for all school users.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s director of business services, Ritchie Johnson, compiled the report to be discussed by councillors today.

He states: “It is evident from the findings there seems to be systematic failure in the design and construction of some schools in the PFI/PPP era.

“It was not episodic and it is difficult to comprehend why it happened in a range of other schools across Scotland.”

His report also says it is “reassuring” from investigations of the more recently constructed schools at Alford and Ellon that no problems have been identified.