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More than 200 asbestos hotspots on Alness Academy

Cllr Carolyn Wilson at Alness Academy. Picture by Phil Downie
Cllr Carolyn Wilson at Alness Academy. Picture by Phil Downie

The Ross-shire academy known as the north’s worst school building has more than 200 asbestos hotspots, it has emerged.

Highland Council will get a progress report next week on the £30million project to replace Alness Academy with a new cleaner and greener school.

Under proposals the academy will be demolished and a new school erected to replace it with funding from both the Scottish Government and the council.

The property has suffered all manner of problems over the years including at least 218 – mostly small – examples of asbestos.

The material was found in roofs, walls, doors, and even classrooms – although the human exposure potential is considered to be zero in most cases and low in all others.

A flea infestation forced the school to close after a bank holiday and leaks meant a classroom and stairwell were unusable for a time.

Alness has been kept on the list of projects to be completed even as the council slashed its capital spending budget in half due to cuts.

The complex development will see some of the playing fields used for the site of the new academy while pupils still attend classes in the old school.

Alness-based Councillor Carolyn Wilson who chairs the stakeholder committee said it has been a huge community effort, adding “as a community we are delighted.”

She said: “It is a partnership project, a huge amount of work went into it from the stakeholder group looking at the designs and plans and sports facilities.

“Community representative groups, parent council put forward have been involved from the start and put forward good points.

“The architect has taken on their local knowledge and has included it in the designs process.

She added: “It’s really important that we get it right, we have only got one chance to build it and we must to build it right.”

That the Scottish Government has demanded the new school be completed by March 2020 which was also welcomed by Mrs Wilson.

Mrs Wilson said: “The Scottish Government deadline is good because it means they need to get cracking, it could not come soon enough.

“It is just a shame that it has taken so long to deliver because the teachers and children deserve a positive clean environment.”

The arrival of the new school will coincide with an increase in house building so the extra places at the academy are already needed.

The North Planning Applications Committee will be briefed on progress when it meets on Tuesday.

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