Girl escaped falling concrete in Edinburgh school toilet

A GIRL had a lucky escape when a lump of concrete the size of a rugby ball fell from the ceiling of a toilet at a city primary school.
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The pupil heard a loud crash above her and a later investigation found the concrete had only been prevented from hitting her because it was caught by the structure of the suspended ceiling.

The incident at Towerbank Primary in Portobello is one of 42 “near misses” recorded in council properties since 2014.

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It happened in October last year, but has only now been made public after questions were tabled about building failures “where the reasonably foreseeable worst-case injury could have been life-threatening”.

Last month the Evening News revealed more than 20 schools are among 80 council buildings officially listed as being in poor or bad condition, with major defects and in need of urgent attention.

A council conditions survey found a £153 million backlog in maintenance across the council estate.

And council chiefs are now set to include new investment in maintenance in the budget for 2018/19.

Towerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon FraserTowerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Towerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon Fraser

Tory councillor Jim Campbell asked about the near misses at last week’s full council meeting after learning of the Towerbank incident in a briefing from council officials.

He told the Evening News: “A block of concrete about the size of a rugby ball fell from the ceiling, there was a pupil in the cubicle of the toilet and the block could have potentially hit her had it not been stopped by the suspended ceiling.

“The girl heard a loud bang and crash above her and an investigation found that was what had happened. That potentially could have been quite serious.”

Council leader Adam McVey told Cllr Campbell there had been 19 “near miss” incidents in city schools and 23 in other council buildings since 2014.

Towerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon FraserTowerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Towerbank Primary School. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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Cllr Campbell said: “We’ve suspected for quite a long time that the maintenance spend was insufficient to maintain buildings in good condition.”

He backed the council to invest more in repairing and maintaining its estate. But he added: “It’s an expensive way of putting the problem right. Had we spent a little bit more on maintenance over the last decade or more it would have been better value for the taxpayers and we would not be facing these risks.”

Green Finance spokesperson Gavin Corbett said there was a consensus at the council that the backlog of repairs was a top priority for next year’s budget.

“We need a firm commitment to immediate action as soon as any incident in a council building is highlighted and a commitment to put right decades of neglect and to invest properly in maintenance in the future.”

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said: “The maintenance of, and investment in, the council estate is a priority and this will be reflected in our coalition budget later this month.

“Having completed a full condition survey of the estate, we intend to initiate a wide programme of prioritised repair and maintenance over the year as well as establishing an annual pro-active maintenance programme.

“We are already undertaking an extensive programme of ceiling and roof inspections across the estate and, where any issues are identified, remedial measures are immediately put in place.”