In the light of revelations that 10 South Lanarkshire Secondary Schools built under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Finance model have had to make repairs due to structural defects (1), South Lanarkshire Greens reveal information which questions the construction quality and are calling on the council to undertake an independent inquiry to look into how the problems occurred, similar to that Green Councillors in Edinburgh asked for after the Edinburgh schools debacle earlier this year (2)
In 2005, at the height of the secondary school modernisation programme, South Lanarkshire Greens wrote to the council (3) responding to widespread community concerns about the design of the new buildings and the extreme lack of consultation. Due to the derth of information about the schemes, the Greens put in a Freedom of Information request to try and scrutinise the plans.
These revealed a number of issues of concern about building quality, process of developing the schemes and the lack of scrutiny of final plans or finished building (4), (5). Whilst the Labour-Lib Dem controlled Scottish Executive at the time stated that “new schools should demonstrate the highest design and environmental standards” planning permission for the new South Lanarkshire schools was given ahead of the final contract documentation being presented to the council for further scrutiny, no guidance given on how to assess these buildings against these 'highest standards' and any wider public scrutiny was refused due to 'commercial confidentiality'. The short two week period for the very limited consultation was also wholly inadequate to inform the designs.
These issues were then raised with the then Scottish Executive at the time and were amplified by a report into the schools by Architecture and Design Scotland (6). This report highlighted short comings in the design which could have been addressed at an earlier stage. Perhaps given the rushed and secretive process of designing these buildings and tendering the building work it is no surprise that the build quality of some schools has been found to be substandard.
Kirsten Robb, an East Kilbride based Green activist and parent of two children said, "As a parent I want my children to learn in a safe, well designed building. Sadly many pupils in South Lanarkshire will be saddled with these sub-standard buildings for years to come. It is shocking that the council have not informed parents about the building defects even after they have been revealed by the BBC. It seems that they are happy to spend public money, but not keep the public informed about how it is being spent.
"Our evidence shows that the Secondary Schools Modernisation programme was raced through from start to finish and the final quality of buildings suffered as a result. These most recent revelations show that 10 South Lanarkshire high schools, including St Andrews and St Brides and Duncanrig have required repairs due to structural defects. This is what you get when you don't take on the most up to date guidance on building quality and design and when you sidestep proper public consultation and scrutiny on such large projects. A full inquiry into what happened and the lessons to be learned are now essential. And this time, parents must be kept fully informed."
(3) Letter to SLC - Sep 2005
(4) FOI response 1
(5) FOi response 2
(6) ADS Design Review panel report on SL PPP schools - identified shortcomings in the designs, such as site layouts which do not encourage openness and free access, excessive use of palisade fences and shortage of playground space, might also have been alleviated by more consideration at the briefing stage.