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‘Serious frustration’: Parents and community’s fears about scaled-back Culloden Academy extension

historic culloden academy
Culloden Academy. Pictured by Sandy McCook.

Serious concerns are being raised about a £19.2 million Highland high school extension project.

Culloden Academy parent council and Culloden Community Council are calling into question the future of the project after it is claimed key components of the project have been cancelled without any consultation, and that phase one is already running far behind schedule.

Expressing “serious frustration”, the two bodies are asking for a review of the progress in the Culloden Academy extension and refurbishment plans.

In a letter sent to Highland Council’s chief executive Donna Manson, Culloden Community Council chairwoman Catherine Bunn asked for an explanation of why key components of the refurbishment of existing facilities have been dropped, without any consultation with the stakeholder group.

Concerns include promised refurbishments to three existing changing rooms being cancelled and worries a planned new sports pitch may now not go ahead, despite a planning application being submitted this month.

Highland Council says a range of local and international factors are currently affecting construction projects.

‘We were told work would take longer’

Mrs Bunn said: “The last Culloden Academy Stakeholder Meeting was held on January 18. During the presentation, we were shown a diagram of what the phase one extension would look like.

“We were told the work on the main school extension would take longer as it is linked in with the road junction, but the other work around the phase one extension would be going ahead as quickly as possible, such as the modular classrooms, sports facilities, refurbishments etc.

“We had already been told in October 2021 that the synthetic playing field would be ready by this August and were assured on multiple occasions that everything was on schedule.”

Culloden Academy.

However on May 12, after an email update, parents and the community council demanded a tour of the school to look at progress.

Mrs Bunn continued: “Worryingly, we were also shown areas of the school that the Highland Council have decided no longer needs investment and quite frankly we are appalled that the teachers are expected to provide an educational experience in this setting, let alone ask students to learn.

“It is an absolute disgrace and it is a redaction of the previous agreements for the Culloden Academy expansion plans that parents and the community simply will not accept.”

The issues the parents and community council would like to have addressed:

  1. Refurbishment work may not take place on three current changing rooms. The letter states: “They are disgusting and the only reason the school hasn’t raised concerns previously is because they were on the renovation schedule. This needs to be reinstated.”
  2. Fire evacuation points at still to be built basketball courts. Parents say there is currently a fire safety risk at the school with access to the fire muster point only possible via a steep muddy bank, which leads onto a playing field. “We expect to see this facility reinstated into the expansion plans.”
  3. Synthetic sports pitch. Due to be completed by August 2022, the group has now “been informed it may not happen at all”.

Referring in part to pupils who play for Scotland’s national basketball team, the letter continued: “We might have Olympic sporting stars of the future in our school, but without the opportunity to try out a multitude of sports at school level, young people may never realise their sporting potential.

“It’s atrocious that the council thinks the current Culloden facilities are good enough for school sports.

“There is progress being made in some areas within the school and we acknowledge the investment in this.

“A £19.2 million budget has been allocated to this project but at the speed the council is moving, that funding will clearly have to increase to cope with whatever inflation has taken place.”

Frustration shared

Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson said: “I share the frustration and deep concerns of the Culloden Academy parent council.

“So much of the focus of Highland Council this calendar year has been spent on the local government elections for the 21 council wards, often at the expense of important community projects.”

“As with all building projects, unnecessary and lengthy delays always equates to huge increased costs to taxpayers for the original agreed project.”

He added: “As soon as the full council meets again on June 9, I will be publicly pressing the chief executive for the best outcomes for Culloden Academy pupils, teachers and parents and the communities that this 40-year-old school deserves.”

Highland councillor Duncan Macpherson. Picture by Sandy McCook.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said “a range of local, national and international factors” are currently affecting all construction projects.

She said: “We continue to work closely with colleagues in the Scottish Futures Trust to monitor the current construction situation and discuss this and other current projects.

“Earlier this year, the council held two virtual public events to view and comment on the proposals for the first phase of the extension and refurbishment programme along with the overall design masterplan for Culloden Academy.

“There is an upcoming opportunity for the community to engage with us on this development as further events are planned for June.

“These events will be open to all members of the community.

“If you wish to attend, please contact CLestates@highland.gov.uk to request a link and documents from the events will be uploaded onto the council’s website.”

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