SCHOOL building projects have been put in doubt for up to a year it has emerged as a row over capacity at a Catholic high school continues.

Councils have been pressing the Scottish Government for an update on details for the next phase of the school infrastructure programme which allows them to fund new school buildings and extend or upgrade existing buildings. 

They were told the information on the new Learning Estate Investment Programme would be given before Christmas.

However, ministers have today confirmed that the plans will instead be set out over “the next 12 months” – leaving any new building projects planned for this period in jeopardy. 

READ MORE: £100m Greenock scheme ‘in doubt’ over Catholic school size

The development comes amid doubts over whether a £100m project in Greenock will go ahead after concerns over the capacity of a local Catholic secondary school.

Planners in Inverclyde have recommended the number of houses built on the site are limited to 60% of the developers' proposal citing "capacity issues" at St Columba's High School in nearby Gourock.

Inverclyde Councillor Chris McEleny has argued that rather than cutting the number of houses, the council should extend the size of the school.

Former Rangers shareholders and businessmen Sandy and James Easdale along with Advance Construction have proposed the £100m housing and community scheme at the site of the former IBM factory in Greenock.

READ MORE: Ex-Rangers shareholders fearful of 'capacity issues' at Greenock Catholic school

They want the development to include 450 new homes but Inverclyde Council officials have only recommended the green light is given for 270.

A report to Inverclyde Planning Board by Inverclyde Council’s interim director of planning and regeneration said there were no objections to the development on education grounds, though the local Catholic high school had “some capacity issues”.

It said: “Education – no objections. It is advised that the development is within the catchment of St Columba’s High School, which is currently experiencing some capacity pressure.

“However, Education Services assessment, based on currently available information, is that the school estate will be able to accommodate additional pupils from this development in the future.”

The report added: “After careful consideration, the conclusion reached is therefore again that in order to protect its interests including realisation of the wider Spango Valley Priority Place development, and to take full cognisance of the potential impact on the capacity of the denominational secondary school, the council has to control, via condition, the number of residential units on the application site to the previously mentioned maximum figure of 270.”

The Inverclyde Council Planning Board will make a determination on the application in January.

In a written parliamentary answer on Thursday, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the Scottish Government would give an update on the Learning Estate Investment Programme "within the next 12 months".

She said: "The Learning Estate Investment Programme has made significant progress since the first projects were announced in September 2019, with projects in construction and in development representing a £1.2 billion investment in the learning estate.

"The Scottish Government intend to announce the projects that will form part of Phase 3 of the programme within the next 12 months.

"We will write to local authorities seeking investment proposals in 2022 and in the meantime we will work with local government to agree the development programme timeline."

Scottish Labour’s Education spokesperson Michael Marra MSP said:  "This pitiful update fails to deliver an ounce of clarity on the SNP’s plans for essential upgrades to our schools. 

“Many councils have project proposals ready to go, and with this delay it puts them in jeopardy. The school estate is vital to curriculum delivery and learning, but too many of our schools have been left to crumble. 

“The past two years have shown that much of our estate is not conducive to health and well-being – not least the ongoing failures on ventilation.

"These projects are badly needed, but yet again we have our do-nothing Education Secretary doing nothing.”