Fears as Councillors consider delay on Lossie High decision

Lossiemouth High School - hitting the funding buffers
Lossiemouth High School – hitting the funding buffers

FEARS ARE GROWING that Lossiemouth could end up with a new High School with community facilities – but also lose its swimming pool for the sake of £800,000.

Growing concerns in the town has already sparked a new Social Media page being created to rally support against Moray Council proposals that would see the new Lossiemouth High School being built without retaining the pool.

A paper being put before councillors next week has clarified the position over Scottish Government funding for the building of the new school.  While earlier discussions revealed confusion over if funding from the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) would include the costs of a new swimming pool, prompting councillors to look at alternatives including retention of part of the existing buildings, the paper confirms that funding is available for a pool.

At the meeting of the Full Council next Wednesday, however, the director for education and social care, Laurence Findlay, will say that the cost of including it will send construction costs from £28.5million to £31million.

Mr Findlay adds that while the SFT is willing to pay an additional £2million, such is the state of Council finances it would be unwise to include the pool in the new school planning.

Should the council choose to go ahead with the swimming pool included in the project, the paper shows that the additional cost to Moray Council, taking account of additional finance from SFT, would amount to just £800,000.

However, the paper also highlights concerns that the new school as planned may not meet future requirements for Lossiemouth when new housing plans are taken into account: “The school roll projections for Lossie High School is 685 by 2022 and this does not take into consideration the potential re-zoning of Burghead Primary School solely to Lossiemouth which it is anticipated will be 70 children to the roll.

“It also does not consider the effect of additional military presence at Lossiemouth, or the housing development by Tullochs of Cummingston to the south of the RAF camp. There is a possibility that the capacity figure of 700 will be reached within two years of the school being opened.

“Some use of design principles could result in the capacity being increased within the proposed footprint, however Council may wish to increase the capacity to 800 pupils which would require to be funded exclusively by the Council at a cost of approximately £3million.”

Pool is centre of attention - but community centre is also located in old building
Pool is centre of attention – but community area will be included

In the report, prepared by senior project officer Shona Leese, the conclusion reached is that any decision on the option to follow is delayed until later this year.

The report says: “The Council agreed the scope of the replacement for Lossiemouth High School at its meeting on 30 March 2016.  The council’s financial position remains the same and the advice remains that it would be financially irresponsible to agree to invest in a new swimming pool at this time.

“However, it is also recognised that with a programme of community engagement on the council’s financial position currently under way, it could be regarded as premature to take a decision on reducing service provision at this time.

“The remaining option is to commit to additional design costs to enable both options to be kept open until December 2016, but a final decision would have to be made at that time.”

The paper does, however, appear to remove some community fears over the community centre, which is also located in the current school building: “It should be noted that the community area will be incorporated within the new build, which will allow for community use of facilities which will be accessed through a common entrance point, requiring a single reception area for the whole building.”

The full discussion paper being put to Councillors is currently available online.