New Monmouth school buildings sprinklers systems don't work

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by

TWO Monmouthshire schools have newly constructed buildings with sprinkler systems which do not work.

Monmouthshire council said the gymnasium at Mounton House in Chepstow and the 21st century learning plaza at Castle Park in Caldicot have the firefighting devices installed but not connected.

The news comes just over a year after the county lost part of Thornwell Primary school to a fire.

Since 2007-08, it has been a condition of Welsh Government grants that all new school build and significant refurbishment projects must have fire sprinklers installed, according to a spokesman.

But the council said the £780,000 building at Mounton House and the £1.2 million state-of-the-art Castle Park facility suffered from budget restrictions.

Mounton House's building was built November 2008 to June 2009, while Castle Park's was constructed January 2011Ð July 2011.

The council said it was aware of the Welsh Government condition but "the cost to provide a fully functioning sprinkler system would be disproportionate to the scheme."

It claimed a sprinkler installation for a typical new-build 210 place primary school is about £250,000.

Maintenance costs for such a system work out at around £1,000 per year.

The council spokesman said the Welsh Government were aware of the limitations and agreed the two schemes.

The council said the new Thornwell Primary building, which is to go before planning late next month, will have an operating sprinkler installation.

Six Monmouthshire schools have sprinkler systems, while Magor Church in Wales Primary's new extension has a partial system.

Headteacher at Castle Park Primary Rob Wilsher said the school doesn't have enough high pressure water for its system, but there is a very sensitive fire alarm.

He said he was told by the council the sprinklers would be dry until the next development.

Thornwell councillor Armand Watts said it was a very important issue.

"The council continually claim they have no money for schools but they have put aside millions of pounds for a cattle market in Abergavenny," he said.

"Parents, children and staff might of hoped the council had learnt a lesson from the Thornwell blaze. Amazingly, given the overwhelming evidence of the risks to schools, even Monmouthshire's new buildings are not always fitted with working sprinkler systems."

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