A decision to rebuild a Caithness school has been overturned by Highland Council – because it never should have been an option to begin with.
A block of Thurso High School was closed with immediate effect last October after an inspection from structural engineers.
Caithness councillors at the county’s local area committee were asked to choose one of four options for the school’s future last month.
The voted to demolish and rebuild it at a cost of £7.5 million, instead of the recommended option of just demolishing it for £1.2m.
It has now become clear that the option to rebuild should never have been on the table.
That’s because only the full council can agree to an investment of that size.
A motion to revert the committee’s decision to just demolishing the block was put forward by council leader Raymond Bremner.
It passed by 38 votes to 28.
‘There is already a process in place’ for Thurso High School
Councillor Bremner said: “The council has limited capital funding. And only the council can authorise what that money can be spent on.
“There is already a process in place that is considering long-term options for Thurso High School.
“As a Caithness member and also as leader of Highland Council, I need to make sure that we consider the interests of all members and their communities.”
New modular classrooms to replace the condemned building have already been agreed at a cost of £2m.
Longer term options are currently being assessed.
Ron Gunn, the chairman of Caithness area committee, said: “At no time were we told that we could not discuss any options or that any of the options were unfeasible.
“My view was that a rebuild would give the area a real positive commitment that, at some time down the line, a new block would be built.
“The committee’s decision sends a clear message of what the ward wants to happen and I stand by it.”
Councillors keen to highlight their own local school struggles
Numerous schools in the north are in desperate need of repairs.
There were some passionate contributions from councillors about why their local school should not be left behind.
Dingwall councillor Margaret Paterson said she had been fighting for a new school for St Clement’s for 20 years.
Other schools like Dunvegan Primary, Park Primary and Nairn Academy are in desperate need of work.
The future of many rebuild and repair projects lie in the balance.
Highland Council is awaiting news of a funding announcement from the Scottish Government.
The council was due to find out the results of its learning estate investment programme funding bid by the end of 2022.
But it is still waiting.