Dundee Western Gateway residents could demand money back for delayed school

Dundee Western Gateway residents who spent £5,000 each to help build a new primary school are considering demanding their money back if the project keeps stalling.

Hundreds of families who moved to the area would be entitled to reclaim their four-figure “roof tax” by July 2025 if the council cannot make further progress.

Last month, plans to build the school were dealt a blow when Dundee City Council missed out on vital funding from the Scottish Government.

It was hoped cash from Holyrood would have covered around half of the £21.8 million cost.

Households who paid towards the new school would not automatically need to take back their money when the 2025 deadline arrives.

Instead council chiefs could hold onto the ring-fenced cash if they agree with developers that they can deliver a new education facility at a later date.

Bill Batchelor, chairman of the Western Gateway community group, said most locals are still determined to see a school built in the area.

‘Give us our money back’

But he warned some residents are beginning to mull over whether they would be better getting their money back due to “broken promises”.

It comes as the community meets with top Dundee council figures, including local authority leader John Alexander, next Tuesday for crunch talks.

Mr Batchelor told us: “If they were to give a firm commitment, I think people would accept that.

“The problem is they’ve broken their promises so many times now. I first got promised the school back in 2020.

“They said they would attempt to do it by 2025. The next thing we know, about two months later it’s August 2026.

“It’s like, come on, that’s three times you’ve broken promises to the community.”

He added: “The community can’t trust the council. There is a lot of feedback from people saying, give us our money back.

“As far as the committee’s concerned, we want the school. But if you don’t get commitment, then people will want their money back.”

Dundee council leader John Alexander. Image: Alan Richardson.

Dundee council leader Mr Alexander said local officials are exploring all possible routes to ensure the school is built.

He told us: “Our focus right now is on solutions.

“In the aftermath of the very disappointing decision not to award funding to support our ambitions to deliver the school in the Western Gateway, officers have been tasked at looking at all options.”

It’s understood that once all 1,073 properties have been built, the council will have received £5.4 million in total toward the “roof tax”.

Construction will not be finished until 2030, meaning families are continuing to pay their £5,000 to the project despite doubts over its future.

Work on new homes in the area first began eight years ago, in 2015.

Questions also remain over how residents would decide on whether or not to accept their money back if splits emerge.

Mr Batchelor told us the new school would play a vital role in the Western Gateway community once it has been built.

He said: “It’s not just about the school. It’s about the fact that the school is a good cohesive force for bringing people together up here.

“It’s a focal point for the community.”

Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra.

Dundee-based Labour MSP Michael Marra quizzed Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, herself an MSP for the city, over the row in Holyrood.

Ms Robison defended funding decisions made by the SNP’s education chief Jenny Gilruth, and said her party had invested heavily in improving schools.

But Mr Marra said: “After eight years of broken SNP promises, they are now in a position where they may well be compelled to return the roof tax to some, or all, of the residents who have paid.

“The questions are numerous. How will the decisions be made? On what basis and under whose authority?

“How do the council intend to deal with a potential split in the community where some residents want refunds and some would still demand a school?

“This unholy mess would have been completely avoided if, at any point in the last decade, there had been a serious plan to build the school.”

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