Council requests time to carry out full review of Nairn Academy cost plan

Council requests time to carry out full review of Nairn Academy cost plan

The Highland Council has made a formal request to the Scottish Government for an extension to the operational date for the new Nairn Academy building.

One of the conditions of Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) funding award is that the buildings must be occupied by the end of 2025.

However, the council has proposed that this date is put back to August 2026 due to the time required to carry out a full review of the overall cost plan to bring the build cost within the proposed increased budget.

The announcement was made to last week’s Housing and Property Committee, where members were updated on the progress of the ten major school projects, the actions taken and the revised programme dates for the proposed new Nairn Academy building.

Construction work on the Tain Campus project, which is included in Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s LEIP, commenced in late September 2022 with an expected completion date of December 2024. The new Ness Castle Primary was completed in February 2023 and the design work is progressing on the new school buildings at Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy, both of which are included in Phase 2 of LEIP.

The council agreed at its meeting in June 2022 that design and planning work should continue to progress on the major school projects at pre-construction stage that are listed below. The capital funding included in the one-year programme approved in March 2023 will allow the projects to be taken up to tender stage while awaiting the outcome of the review of the council’s Capital Programme.

  • Beauly Primary School – New Build (LEIP Phase 3)
  • Charleston Academy – Extension/Refurbishment
  • Culloden Academy – Extension/Refurbishment
  • Dunvegan Primary School – New Build (LEIP Phase 3)
  • Park Primary School – New Build (LEIP Phase 3)

A funding bid for Phase 3 of LEIP was submitted to the Scottish Government in October 2022 for the following projects: replacement buildings at Beauly, Dunvegan and Park Primary Schools; a replacement building on a new site in Dingwall for St Clement’s School; and a building for the new Primary School at the Tornagrain development to the east of Inverness. It is not known when an announcement will be made by the Scottish Government.

At the meeting, members were told that construction costs remain a significant pressure for the council including the following:

  • General inflation/tender cost indices – rising oil and gas prices; material and labour shortages; the impact of various socio-economic factors and worldwide events; manufacturing and distribution constraints; local, national, and worldwide demand.
  • Extraordinary increases in costs of certain materials or products.
  • Local supply chain – limited number of sub-contractors in Highland for certain types of work or sizes of project.
  • Central belt supply chain – already busy so further inflated cost of working on Highland projects, effectively a higher cost location factor.
  • Risk management – contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers are all factoring in additional risk allowances to cover any further increases, particularly for projects with a longer construction period, thus exacerbating the overall position.
  • More stringent design and energy performance standards - this includes the adoption of the Passivhaus design principles for new build schools, such as the Tain 3-18 Campus, that are part of the LEIP programme.

There is also a requirement to work towards ambitious targets in relation to achieving Net Zero emissions and a reduction in Construction Embodied Carbon.

Housing and Property Committee chair, Cllr Glynis Campbell Sinclair said: “Despite the complexities of the current financial constraints the report highlights the immense work being undertaken to drive progress with all projects to design, pre-planning and build stage. It is vital that whilst the Capital Programme is under review that work continues to allow all the major school projects to advance. The ‘Capital Major Project Whole Life’ reporting has been very useful for Members as it sets out the whole life costs of the major projects along with ‘RAG’ ratings in relation to the main criteria of Cost, Time and Scope.

“I would like to thank the Housing and Property team for all the hard work that has gone into each project stage and to the communities involved for their continuous engagement and understanding during this challenging time.”

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