Plans for a new community campus in Dalmellington have been shelved due to spiralling costs.

East Ayrshire Council (EAC) will now concentrate on refurbishing existing school and community facilities rather than building a new Doon Valley Community Campus.

Councillors were told the projected cost of the state-of-the-art new build had rocketed from £33 million in 2019 to £41m in 2022.

This, members of EAC's cabinet were told, has risen to £62m, with high inflation, the high cost of materials and issues around new flooding guidance all playing a part.

As a result, a much lower sum of £25m will now be spent on a "staged refurbished and enhanced education and leisure facility".

The proposed new campus was to have included facilities for Police Scotland and NHS Ayrshire and Arran, but under the revised plans, they will remain in the Dalmellington Area Centre.

READ MORE: Cost of Doon Valley Community campus rises again, by almost £8m=

To illustrate the impact of the rising costs, a report to the cabinet's meeting on May 30 stated that had the £59m Barony Campus in Cumnock been built now, it would cost between £120m and 145m. 

The report went on to acknowledge the need to upgrade the school facilities with a "targeted and realistic" investment that would aim to include as many features that were in the new build plan as possible within the reduced budget.

The refurbishment work is expected to start in 2025 - when, two years ago, the council had hoped the new campus might be complete.

Work is expected to last for around three years.

Ayr Advertiser:

Doon Valley councillor Drew Filson said he supported the decision and the ‘certainty’ it would bring to the area.

He said: “I don’t think we could have picked a worse time to build a new school.

"I’m asking for a bit of certainty as it has been three years of endless meetings and Zoom calls and the community is exhausted.”

He said that when the ‘bells and whistles’ that were part of the new build were stripped out, the investment was much closer to the £25m.

“I think the £25m going into the Doon Valley will make a big difference,” he said, adding that bringing the project ‘in house’ would give the council more control to "do what we should be doing – building a school that is fit for purpose and is a first class facility".

READ MORE: Doon Valley community campus' updated plans to go on show next week

Councillor Elaine Cowan, the authority's spokesperson for education and children and  young people, said: “The Doon Valley project has been affected by external pressures outwith the control of the council.

"We are where we are, and we could sit here and wring our hands and put our heads down, but £25m is still a significant investment.”

The troubled project was originally estimated to cost around £33m, with the Scottish Government providing around £15m in revenue support from its Learning Estate Investment Programme, payable over 25 years. The council was obliged to provide the full capital costs at the outset.

By 2022 the cost of the campus had risen to more than £41m, with funding of £21m to come from the Scottish Futures Trust.

However, councillors also had to agree to increase the local authority's borrowing by £5m to meet the cost of the project.

The Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) differs considerably from previous school building schemes.

It replaced a scheme that saw councils and the Scottish Government split the capital costs for new schools.

Before that, many schools were built via public-private partnerships, where private companies would pay the costs up front and councils would then make annual payments to meet the cost of both construction and ongoing maintenance.

Ayr Advertiser:

Instead, LEIP sees councils fully responsible for the capital costs, with revenue grant funding paid over the course of 25 years, almost a mirror of the PPP approach.

Along the way, national planning policy and flood risk assessments have brought additional hurdles, both in costs and feasibility.

The report to cabinet stated that the rules around flood risk had become ‘more onerous’ and would require changes to new build design.

SEPA, which is the main advisor on flooding issues, accepted that the campus would meet some criteria for exemption from new flooding guidance, but not all, adding that they would likely object in principle  to the application.

The report said that despite efforts to make the design more effective, it expected costs to reach £62m.

It stated: “As it stands, the project is unaffordable. The reasons for the significant projected cost increases are complex and varied. 

“However, it is  clear that the construction market has become overinflated in recent years, with material costs increasing at a level well above general price inflation and a sharp increase in labour rates primarily due to distinct shortage of skilled workforce.”

It added that the Scottish Government’s offer of £33.6m in revenue support "is still considered to be significantly below an intervention level reflective of the actual cost pressures being faced by the project and local authority bodies".

Cabinet agreed to go forward with refurbishment of the existing buildings.