Questions over Brae’s new school after estimated costs double to almost £40m

The much anticipated new school in Brae could be under threat after estimated costs for the project doubled to almost £40m.

The SIC’s learning estate manager Shona Thompson told today’s (Tuesday) education and families committee meeting the “substantial” cost increase was mainly due to inflationary pressures.

Mrs Thompson said the council would be bidding for Scottish government funding and expected to hear back by the end of this year. 

But with the council being asked to stump up the cash before receiving it back from the government, council members were concerned it might be beyond their reach.

Shetland Central’s Moraig Lyall said it would be an “absolutely massive undertaking” which she was not “entirely confident we will be able to do”.

Finance manager Jamie Manson said the council did not have much “headroom” to find the extra cash.

He suggested “value engineering” or “descoping” options might have to be considered – including whether or not a new build was still appropriate.

Councillors selected a brand new building as their preferred option last year, when the estimated costs were £16-£20m. Other options ranged from doing nothing to refurbishing the existing buildings, which are reported to be in a deteriorating condition.

Shetland North councillor Tom Morton said the new school was “crucial to the economic, cultural and social development, not just of Brae, but the whole of North Mainland”.

Committee chairman Davie Sandison said that while there were “serious challenges” as to whether the project could be delivered, he felt these should not prevent the council progressing the proposals further. 

Mr Sandison said he was pleased to have been presented with the revised figures as a “worst case scenario” to allow the council to “really home in in what the preferred option might be”.

An outline business case will be produced exploring the options in greater detail.

If the project proceeds, it is hoped the school could open by 2026.


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