Edinburgh spends £250,000 to maintain empty school

FINANCE chiefs have spent almost £250,000 of taxpayers’ money maintaining an empty building over the last three years, it has emerged.

FINANCE chiefs have spent almost £250,000 of taxpayers’ money maintaining an empty building over the last three years, it has emerged.

The huge outlay to retain the former Tynecastle High School building has sparked fury from cash-strapped charity groups and politicians who branded the spending “a serious waste of money”.

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The money has been needed to provide “maintenance and security” at the old site while a buyer is sought.

The council insisted the spending was necessary to ensure the building remained attractive to potential purchasers – but critics said the spend was “shocking” at a time when funding for other community projects was being cut.

Details of the cost have emerged just weeks after social charity the Engine Shed – which prepares people with learning disabilities for life in the workplace – was threatened with closure amid reports that the council set to withdraw its £211,200 annual funding.

It is one of several Edinburgh social enterprises to hit the buffers. Question marks hang over the Engine Shed two years after bed-making charity Blindcraft was closed by the council and seven months after Edinburgh’s Remploy factory was shut.

Today, Aileen Johnstone, the mother of a 20-year-old Christopher who has a training placement at The Engine Shed, said the public’s investment in a derelict primary school was a “waste of money”.

“Tynecastle High School is getting all this money and nothing is happening there, it’s throwing good money after bad,” she said.

“The money would be far better spent elsewhere rather than ploughing it into a building that’s lying empty. It just seems so stupid.”

The school site had been a central pillar in plans to redevelop Tynecastle Stadium some years ago but the project was later mothballed by Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov.

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Green finance spokesperson, Councillor Gavin Corbett said spending £80,000-per-year to secure a vacant school was “shocking”. “Every penny is needed for our schools so it is shocking that we are shelling out so much money to keep an old school empty long after such a fantastic new school has been built across the road,” he said.

Council shadow finance spokesman Iain Whyte, of the Edinburgh Conservatives, called for a review into the city’s entire strategy on empty buildings.

He said: “Three years seems a surprisingly long time and it’s been obvious for some time that Hearts weren’t going to be coming forward in the current climate. You would not want to let £240,000 go down the drain without taking steps to make the savings. It really is shocking that the money has gone to waste and we should be looking to review the whole strategy around empty buildings.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said: “It is the council’s intention to advertise the old Tynecastle High School building on the open market in the immediate future. In the meantime it has been necessary to fund the maintenance and security of the building to ensure it remains an attractive opportunity for potential purchasers.”

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