Extra cash could be needed for Peterhead community campus project

Peterhead Academy.
Peterhead Academy.

Aberdeenshire Council could run out of money as it bids to deliver a new multi-million-pound community campus for Peterhead.

The £71 million project will be made up of a new 1,400-pupil secondary school and a brand new school for up to 600 pupils from Dales Park and Meethill primaries.

But a new report reveals education bosses may have to appeal to funding bodies and the Scottish Government for fresh cash to complete the project.

The Peterhead community campus scheme is included in the local authority’s capital plan for 2023-2028 and funds have already been reserved for it.

But it is believed the ambitious scope of the campus may require additional funds “over and above that identified”.

It is also possible there may have to be a “phased” delivery if the overall project is to be delivered as envisaged.

For the first time, a front-runner for the site of the new campus has also been identified, with Kinmundy enjoying by far the most significant support.

Some concerns have, however, been raised about the distance some pupils will have to travel to the edge-of-town site.

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday, a report by education boss Laurence Findlay will lay out the need for additional funding to be secured.

He said the millions of pounds already kept back for the development might not be enough to deliver the community campus.

Mr Findlay writes: “Officers will continue to emphasise that the entire project scope cannot be delivered within allocated funding.

“The ambitious scope for Peterhead may require additional funding over and above the existing capital plan allocation.

“Negotiations are ongoing with the Scottish Futures Trust and Scottish Government.”

Two public consultation events on the proposals for a replacement for Peterhead Academy were held in February and March.

Of the 144 people who attended, 92 backed the community campus with only nine against it.  There were 25 abstentions and 18 people who said they did not know.

There were two sites in the running for the super school, with the current Peterhead Academy building on Prince Street one option.

A plot of land at Kinmundy, however, topped an exit poll held during the consultations, with 289 people backing a move and  71 supporting development on the current site.

Mr Findlay’s report said there was a “strong preference” for the new school to built away from the current building to minimise the impact on pupils’ learning.

He said: “There is a strong preference for the academy and community resource hub to be located at Kinmundy rather than the current academy site.

“The main reason for this was around less disruption to pupils’ education, though there were some concerns raised around the distance to Kinmundy for those living in the town centre.”

As well as a secondary and primary school, the Peterhead community campus will include a nursery, sports facilities and a 300-seat theatre, on more than one site.

The full Aberdeenshire Council will be asked to agree that Kinmundy is now the preferred site for the new secondary when it meets at Woodhill House in Aberdeen next week.

Following the public consultation events, parents and locals expressed their frustration at the current state of Peterhead Academy and stressed the urgency of delivering a new school.

Images posted on social media showed damp and cracked walls with one Facebook user branding the conditions “disgusting.”

John Buchan wrote: “First time in the academy for quite some time tonight for a meeting. I was shocked to see how bad of a state the school is in.

“Peterhead councillors should hang their heads in shame that kids are learning in an environment like this.

“It hasn’t changed in the 26 years since I left. Disgusting that kids are in there. It needs condemned.”