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Learning Town cost rises to £69 million

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By Newsdesk
Dumfries and West
Learning Town cost rises to £69 million

A £69 million bid is to be sent to the Scottish Government for funding to cover the costs of phase two of Dumfries Learning Town.

It includes £46.5 million to replace Dumfries High School and £22.7 million to refurbish Dumfries Academy, pictured, along with moving Loreburn Primary into a revamped Minerva Hall.

Council leader Elaine Murray yesterday expressed confidence that the government will pay up.

She said: “In the past I have had conversations with the Deputy First Minister and he did seem very sympathetic with what we are trying to achieve with Dumfries Learning Town and I will be very disappointed if this bid is not successful.”

And education committee chairman Jeff Leaver added: “I hope with all my heart that we are successful.”

Corporate manager Paul McCulloch described the funding arrangement on offer as ‘quite complex’ and said that if the local authority gets the money, they will need to hit a variety of targets, including good maintenance of the buildings for 25 years, economic growth, ensuring digital connectivity throughout and meeting energy requirements.

He said: “It’s quite a different model to what we are used to.”

But some elected members raised questions and asked if there was a plan B if the bid fails or is only partially successful.

Lochar councillor Ivor Hyslop said: “One of big issues I have is that we are progressing this to the next stage but what assurances can we give staff, pupils, parents that if the bid is not fully successful, what’s the back up plan to allow us to make sure we can improve our school estate?”

And Lochside councillor Ronnie Nicholson added: “If the Scottish Government do not part fund both projects, what would be the priority project?”

Responding, education director Gillian Brydson admitted there is not a fallback position and in the case of refusal, officials will bring the matter back to councillors.

Meanwhile, the bid includes further details of the two projects.

It reveals that the refurbishment of the academy will include solutions to the current poor accommodation for music and PE and will also tackle a long list of backlog maintenance issues.

It notes that Minerva Hall needs an overhaul to be fit for use as a primary school, including replacement heating, ventilation, water services, fire alarms, intruder alarms, security systems and external lighting.

The model also includes the replacement of Dumfries High School with a new build on the same site, which will feature a community facility as well to be run by Greystone Rovers.

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