Building fears prompt extra safety checks at colleges

22nd April 2016 at 00:00
Precautionary measures are being taken in light of Edinburgh school closures, TESS survey finds

Colleges across Scotland are carrying out additional safety checks on their buildings in light of the Edinburgh school closures, TESS can reveal.

At least five are bringing forward condition surveys of their estates or undertaking other checks as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of staff and students.

The news comes after 17 Edinburgh schools were closed amid safety concerns. All the buildings were erected by Miller Construction – acquired by Galliford Try in 2014 – around a decade ago, and financed under a public-private partnership scheme.

Number one priority

TESS understands that at least five colleges had Miller involved in the construction of their campuses. Forth Valley College, Dumfries and Galloway College, and Inverness College UHI were among the institutions that told TESS they were now carrying out additional checks. At Forth Valley, both Alloa and Stirling campuses will be subject to a conditions survey.

Edinburgh College said that although its buildings were of different build types to the schools, it was bringing in a structural engineering firm this week to conduct checks.

New College Lanarkshire said that it had commissioned a full condition survey in 2014-15 that did not raise any areas of concern for its Motherwell campus, built by Miller.

Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said that it was encouraging to see colleges acting quickly to ensure that there were no structural issues. “Given the recent revelations about the safeness and soundness of schools built under similar contracts and companies, this could obviously cause concern for staff and students at any college involved,” she added.

The number one priority had to be ensuring that students were able to get on with their studies as normal in a safe environment, Ms Sandlan stressed.

Helen Pedley, the director of organisation development and facilities at Dumfries and Galloway, said that the college conducted regular condition surveys as part of its maintenance programme, adding: “In light of recent information the college will undertake a further survey earlier than planned.”

A spokeswoman for Forth Valley said that it was monitoring the situation at Edinburgh schools closely. “While we have no reason to believe that our own campuses built by Miller Construction are in any way structurally compromised, we have initiated an additional conditions survey outwith our regular maintenance programme. As always, the safety of our staff and students is paramount.”

Precautionary measures

Ten colleges told TESS that they did not plan any checks beyond their pre-existing systematic programmes, and a number outlined the safeguards that they had in place.

A spokeswoman for Ayrshire College said that, although none of its buildings were built by Miller, it was reviewing the college estate, and that building checks would be carried out as a precautionary measure.

A spokesman for the SFC said: “We have consulted our advisers about the college buildings that were built by Miller at around the same time as the affected schools. In their opinion, there is a very low risk of any problems with the brickwork as this would have been picked up by the clerk of works for each project.

“We are working with the advisers to draw up a due diligence checklist for colleges to help them with any concerns they might have regarding health and safety.”

Galliford Try was contacted, but declined to comment.

@JBelgutay

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