CONSTRUCTION work on Peebles High School is set to start within weeks – despite a near-£11 million hike in its building costs.

Spiralling costs have seen the budget for building the school rise from £50.1 million to £61m, members of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) were in informed on Thursday (August 31).

Rising inflation and ever-increasing construction costs are among the reasons for the hike.

But despite the inflation-busting rise members gave their approval for construction to start this autumn.

The increased building costs are not unprecedented.

The budget for the new Galashiels Academy community campus has risen by £4.345m and the new Earlston Primary School by £4m.

Kelso councillor Simon Mountford, SBC’s executive member for estates management and planning, said: “Following my comments regarding Earlston Primary School in May and Gala Academy in June, this is going to sound a bit like Groundhog Day.

“As is clear we are operating in what are described as ‘volatile construction market conditions’, and I think that is somewhat of a euphemism. We’re facing double-digit construction inflation which has resulted in tender returns being £10.9m over budget. This is regrettable but Peebles High School is a major strategic investment that is going to benefit not just young people but the entire community for decades to come.”

Tweeddale East councillor Julie Pirone added: “The costs have gone up to do with the pressures of inflation and also because we listened to the community and we made changes and I am confident that the majority of those changes made are satisfactory to the public locally. There are still some questions and I think it is really important that those questions are answered.

“We have just finished the sports extension and it looks absolutely fabulous, and I want to make sure that the school plays its part by getting it out to pupils.”

Fellow ward councillor Robin Tatler said: “The overwhelming feeling I get from the community is that they just want this school built and built as quickly as possible.”

A target has been set to have the new school operational by the end of 2025, which frees up revenue funding from Scottish Government.

The existing Peebles High School – which suffered extensive damage due to a fire in November 2019 – is being demolished and a new community campus built on land previously used as school playing fields.

A report to full council, approved by John Curry, SBC’s director for infrastructure & environment, says: “During 2022, construction inflation was reported in double figures through national indicators such as the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS).

“The project team includes external cost advisers and in the summer of 2022, the project was reporting a revised cost of £50.1m.

“This was included within the budget setting process through to the approval of the Capital Investment Plan on February 23, 2023.

“However, several of the key package returns have shown a cost increase beyond that which had been allowed for through the inflationary increase in 2022.

“Given volatile construction market conditions, the overall tender return figure by BAM Construction Ltd is some £10.9m above the budget included within the February 2023 Capital Investment Plan.

“The project team has undertaken a review of specifications and materials within the project to see if changes can be made. At the time of writing this report, this process continues.”