East Lothian Courier – 6 July 2023


Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) sounds a benign technical term. But it masks what’s a serious problem. Both the Brunton Hall and Preston Lodge HS have issues with it leading to closure of all or just parts, and that will be replicated in other public buildings across the county and country.

It was a method of manufacture for concrete planks and panels from the 1960s on. Not all buildings have them as not all manufacturers used it. Doubtless, there were advantages whether cost or ease when first used in the 1960s and after.

But pre 1980 panels are now seen as being past their “expected service life” and need checked, if not replaced. Basically, it seems that the concrete can begin to fragment and there’s the risk of collapse, worsened as many were used in roofs and ceilings. Further complicating matters is that its not easy to check whether there’s a need for replacement without tearing much of them down. You can’t just insert a needle or scrape a sample.

So, it’s a big problem for the council where obviously safety of the public or pupils has to be the priority. I’ve been asking questions in Parliament and the answers have simply shown the extent of the problem but provided no solutions either scientific or financial.

Every Department down south has been told to go away and check on their buildings, as is every school. That’s obviously essential and replicates what the council are doing. But there’s no sign of any strategy being developed which I’d hope might be part of the solution.

Similarly, I was advised that it was for the Scottish Government to resolve the financial issues despite almost all these buildings being pre-devolution. Down south it’ll be the public agencies already under the cosh left to try and cope.

Public safety must come first as we’ve seen with Grenfell Tower the disaster that can befall when there’s a failure to act. Hopefully, though some technical solution can be developed to make it easier to check on buildings. But where change is needed some additional financial support’s essential.