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Fire will not halt plans to “resurrect” historic Aberdeen school building

Developers have vowed a fire in a derelict Aberdeen school will not falter plans to transform the building.

More than 40 firefighters battled the blaze at the historic Victoria Road School yesterday.

The roof collapsed on one of the oldest parts of the former school, built in 1878.

The main building, added in 1904, was largely untouched.

Last night the school – which is due to be given a new lease of life as affordable housing – was compared to the fire-ravaged Notre Dame in Paris.

The iconic French cathedral also lost its roof as it was extensively damaged by fire last month – but there are already plans to fully restore it.

And last night, the community-led Torry Development Trust and Grampian Housing said they were determined the fire would not halt their project to “resurrect ” the granite building.

Torry councillor Christian Allard, who lives in a neighbouring street, was confident the plans could rise from yesterday’s ashes.

“It’s only the roof,” the French-born politician said.

“Look at Notre Dame. It’s still standing.

“The front has been saved and most of the inside was saved as well.”

The architect working with the trust, David Murray, said: “It’s the same principle as the plans for Notre Dame, but of course on a dramatically different scale of course.”

“We have lost part of the fabric of the original building as a lot of the slate will have been destroyed in the collapse.

“There is more work to do now, but it is replaceable.

“What I can say without a doubt is everyone involved will be even more determined  than we already were to make this project work.”

Firefighters were greeted with “rapidly developing” flames after being called to Victoria Road at around 9.20am.

It took them hours to bring flames under control, but no one was hurt.

Investigations into the cause continue.

The community campaign to save the historic Torry building – which was closed in 2008 – won out over Aberdeen City Council proposals to demolish it.

Torry Development Trust’s David Fryer, said: “It’s a sad day – but this is only an interruption.

“This will not stop the plans to resurrect the building – it’s extra reason to get on with it.

“We’ve been on the record for years raising concerns for the safety and security of these buildings.

“This was the one thing we were always fearful of, which is why we’ve always said the building has to be properly secured.”

The trust is demanding a meeting with the council, Grampian Housing Association and emergency services to look at other options of securing the site.

It is understood the council could transfer ownership of the site over to the community by the end of month.

Mr Fryer added: “We can’t wait until then to take action though, not after what has happened here.”

The history

The fire yesterday is the latest hurdle the Torry community has faced in bringing Victoria Road School back into use.

The beleaguered building – built by Torry fishermen for the community – has been at the centre of controversy ever since its closure in 2008.

The school has been targeted by fire-raisers and vandals several times since.

The main building was significantly damaged in a blaze in 2014.

After years of campaigning, the Torry Development Trust managed to convince Aberdeen City councillors to save the historic granite school from the wrecking ball.

The trust is working with Grampian Housing Association on plans to build affordable homes in the disused school, and provide other community facilities.

They were appointed “preferred bidder” for the site last September.

The community had previously tried to regenerate the landmark, but councillors instead chose to try and sell it.

Earlier plans to demolish the school were also roundly rejected.

There was widespread protest in Torry at Barratt Homes’ plans to knock it down to build flats.

Hundreds signed petitions calling for the proposals to be scrapped – which councillors acted upon in early 2017.

The school has been at the centre of efforts to retain Aberdeen’s granite heritage since demolition plans were first revealed.

There was outcry in Torry at the initial closure of the school, which came as Aberdeen City Council was in financial crisis.

Victoria Road was shut alongside two other primaries in the city – Causewayend and St Machar – and a number of nurseries.

The school faced adversity before at the hand of the German Luftwaffe.

The largest building – relatively untouched by yesterday’s blaze – was badly damaged in The Blitz in September 1940.

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