Balhousie Primary Schoool Closure

Councillors have voted to push ahead with plans to close one of Perth’s oldest schools. Crumbling Balhousie Primary is in line for the axe, with all pupils likely to be moved to a £14 million new-build at North Muirton.

A last ditch bid by the local SNP group to halt progress on the controversial closure plan was defeated during council talks on Wednesday. Members of the lifelong learning committee voted eight to five to go ahead with another round of consultation with parents and local residents.
The committee heard the Edwardian era primary was in desperate need of improvements. Independent councillor Xander McDade said he was shocked by the conditions when he toured the building on Wednesday morning.
“There was a strong smell of damp, there were windows which wouldn’t close, there seemed to be a lot of dry rot,” he said. “I don’t consider this an acceptable learning environment for children.”

The committee heard there was also asbestos in the building. “I’ve never seen a school in such a state,” said Mr McDade. “Quite frankly, I would never send children to it. If we have to spend money on this building, in the meantime, to bring it up to a safe standard then I think we have to do that.”

Mr McDade was told improvements were made as part of a rolling programme of maintenance and about £250,000 had been invested in the building in recent years.
The committee heard it would cost between £4.8m and £5.7m to bring the building up to scratch, but even then it would only raise its condition from C (poor) to B (satisfactory).

SNP councillor Andrew Parrott called for the school to be saved, claiming a council report arguing for its closure was flawed.

“In my view, this paper does not fully examine the facts and test the assumptions,” he said. “In other words, it does not present a coherent picture of the situation.”

The party’s local education spokesman John Rebbeck also questioned the stated capacity of the building, suggesting it was nearer 90% as opposed to the 45% mentioned in the report. He called for further funding sources to be explored to improve Balhousie’s condition.

Conservative councillor Callum Purves said: “It is quite clear that the building is not fit for purpose and we could paper over the cracks all we want, but at the end of the day we’re not going to get above a B-rating. We would be failing the children.”

A public meeting will be held soon to give parents the chance to discuss the closure plan with lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers and other council officers.