Campaign begins to save Victorian ex-school building

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A CAMPAIGN to save an old Victorian school – thought to be one of the last remaining buildings built from "Niddrie brick" – is under way after it emerged it could be demolished.

The former Niddrie Mill Primary School was set to be transformed into 12 flats, with a further 43 homes to be built to the side and back of the building.

The development of the old school formed part of developer Parc's 15-year masterplan to transform the area with new housing, schools and public spaces.

Despite gaining planning permission just last week for the conversion of the building, it has now emerged that Parc is "not in a position to undertake the work" and it is feared demolition will be the only option left.

Craigmillar residents are already preparing for a battle if it is decided that the building is to be knocked down.

It was built using bricks from the Niddrie brickworks – which used to stand on the site of the Fort Kinnaired retail park.

Campaigners are determined to stop this rich heritage being lost forever.

Terry Tweed, secretary of Craigmillar community council, said: "The campaign has already begun. It's a representation of the industrial past of the area which is gone, and probably will never return.

"This has incensed the whole community because it's coming down to pennies again."

Mr Tweed has already contacted Historic Scotland to see if the building could be listed.

It is understood that since the school closed in 2008 to make way for a 16 million joint-campus school with St Francis Primary, it has suffered significant damage.

It has been attacked by vandals while standing empty and in March last year, a huge blaze started by fireraisers destroyed two 1970s buildings to the rear.

Portobello and Craigmillar councillor Mike Bridgman said: "If Parc can't develop it, children and families would not be able to pay the ongoing costs for securing and maintaining the site, which I believe is around 70,000 per year, so it would probably have to be demolished.

"The community has stated that they want to keep the building in some shape or form."

Sheila Gilmore, the newly-elected MP for Edinburgh East, said she would support the campaign. She said: "It is one of Craigmillar's landmark buildings and it reflects the area's heritage."

Councillor Tom Buchanan, who is chair of the Parc board, stressed that no firm decisions would be taken over the future of the old school until a condition survey is carried out.

He said: "The recent granting of planning consent will no doubt benefit the future value of the site.

"Unfortunately, Parc is not in a position to undertake the work and the council does not have the funding to continue with the security and other outgoings required longer term.

"While there is a desire to maintain the status quo with the continued regeneration of the overall Parc scheme, the current market conditions do not favour that approach.

"It must be recognised that there are a range of options for the site and each one will be considered and today the Parc board authorised a condition survey to be carried out.

"No decision has been taken and the council intends to work alongside Parc to establish a way forward."