A FORMER architect and musician has called for the existing assembly hall to be retained when the new Peebles High School (PHS) is built.

There has been much debate over Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) plans for the £51.2m project.

In an impassioned letter to Peebles Community Council (PCC), member Sam Coe compared the dimensions of the new hall with the old – and raised concerns over its suitability.

Mr Coe wrote: “It will simply not be possible to hold school concerts and shows of the scale that has been traditional up to now, ie with up to 120 pupils performing in front of an audience of parents.

“Many have no real idea of the scale of the new hall, as none of the drawings that have been presented by SBC for consultation have had any dimensions for comparison.

“The new hall will be about the same width as the existing hall (14.5m/ 13.8m roughly), but less than half the length from the doors to the back (10.5m/ 22.0m again roughly), with the stage area about the same as the existing if the demountable partition is opened (9.75m x 6.0m/ 9.5m x 5.5m).

“As the raked (but moveable) seating on the plan only leaves a 2.3m approx floor space up to the doors, with a shallow 1.5m approx recess to the demountable partition, there is no way that a large group could perform there to a full audience.

“SBC expect the school staff to somehow work with the space they are being given, so performances might have to be in smaller groups over several days, but some things obviously won’t be possible.

“Following what was reported in the May PCC minutes, there is private fury that some well-meaning people think that school concerts and shows could be held in the completely unsuitable Eastgate Theatre, Burgh Hall or Drill Hall.

“Not to mention the time and logistics involved in transporting large instruments/ items of equipment and organising such events outwith the school.”

Mr Coe also attended an event at PHS on Monday, June 19 where he raised his concerns about the assembly space.

He said: “The head teacher, Campbell Wilson, said he was particularly pleased at the improvements in the new hall, which now will have an increased seating capacity of 350.”

Mr Coe added: “I raised the proposal that the existing hall should be retained and developed as a community educational and learning resource along with the old part of the school that was already being retained.

“SBC project leader Steven Renwick had earlier explained that the old school buildings were being retained because SBC recognised that they were of value to the community, and so I pointed out that the existing hall was also of considerable value to the community.

“Obviously such a project would have to be the subject of separate funding, but the key thing would be to persuade the council to work with the community on this, and to spare the existing hall and entrance foyer from demolition (due after September 2025).

“There was strong support for this from all of the attendees, and most of the meeting was taken up on this subject.

“Several others spoke and expressed their preference for the hall to be retained, and that it would be a waste of a valuable facility to demolish it.

“It seems that the idea I put forward at two PCC meetings, ie the retention of the existing hall, has previously been suggested independently by members of staff, but summarily dismissed by SBC.”

A spokesperson for SBC said: “The assembly hall within the existing school will not be retained.

“The new school has a performance and assembly space which will meet the needs of the school for performance and gathering, and is very well appointed within the building.”