Fears have been raised that a wrangle over land ownership could delay the opening of a new school in Elgin even further.
Moray Council wants to begin construction on Linkwood Primary School’s permanent home in the south of the town in March next year.
Children are currently taught in temporary accommodation at East End Primary School until the new buildings, which are due to be ready in July 2019, are complete.
Linkwood was originally due to open next year. Now it has been revealed the council is developing “contingencies” in case the project is delayed again.
Yesterday, senior education officers revealed they were ready to “press the button” to begin work but the ownership of the land remained a concern.
However, last night Springfield Properties, which is preparing the site for the council, insisted there was no delay and contracts to secure the land from a third party were in place. Elgin City North councillor Paula Coy said: “We need to keep an eye on this because the school is in an annexe at East End. I don’t know if there’s space there if it’s pushed back – they might outgrow it.
“They’ve planned for three years in the annexe. I don’t know if there’s going to be space for another intake. Parents really need to be kept informed about the project and what steps might have to be taken if it’s delayed. It’s annoying because the council’s hands are tied, they’ve already offered help to speed it up. All they can do is wait.”
Designers have already made “significant alterations” to the school in order to meet the £11.5million budget following initial estimates of nearly £12million. Concerns have been raised that cost may escalate if construction work is delayed.
Council leader George Alexander said it would be a “huge tragedy” if the authority’s bill for the new school increased.
Graham Jarvis, the council’s head of lifelong learning, culture and sport, stressed officials were “constantly” in touch with Springfield regarding access to the site as well as the ownership of it while negotiations continued.
He said: “The education project team is on schedule, the design is complete, the contractors are ready. The issue is still the transfer of the ownership of the ground and the wider development around the school.
“We have been instructed to carry on as if it will be on time. We are ready to go, we are waiting to press the button.”
Plans for the school have been submitted by the council to the planning department but are yet to be approved.
The site is part of Springfield’s masterplan for the south of Elgin, which includes up to 2,500 homes and another primary school.
Last night, Dawn Smith, who lives in the Linkwood catchment but whose children attend East End, said the temporary arrangements appeared to be “working fine” but admitted she was worried that might change.
She said: “Elgin desperately needs a new primary school. I would have hoped any issues would have been sorted out in advance so they can build it.
“Every year a new P1 class joins Linkwood so things might start to get more cramped in the next few years. A lack of car park spaces is already an issue.”
A Springfield spokesman added: “As far as we are aware, there is no delay. We’ve been working with the council to help them achieve their delivery programme for Linkwood Primary School. Contracts securing the land for development are already in place with land owners.
“The necessary legal agreements with Moray Council are currently being pursued through the normal planning process.”