REVIEW OF 2012: Cwmcarn school closes in asbestos scare - September and October

South Wales Argus: CLOSED: Cwmcarn High School CLOSED: Cwmcarn High School

OUR review of 2012 continues as ANDY RUTHERFORD looks back at September and October.

In September and October, the closure of a Valleys school building and the deaths of three generations of the same family were in our headlines. ANDY RUTHERFORD reports.

October:

A VALLEYS school was closed until further notice after a damning structural report found widespread problems with asbestos.

More than 900 pupils attending Cwmcarn High School completed Friday October 12 behind their desks as usual, but were told they would be unable to return on Monday morning.

By Tuesday October 16, the full implications of the closure were beginning to emerge, with the closure confirmed for at least another week and Caerphilly council trying to find pupils temporary accomodation so that they would be able to continue their studies.

Parents reacted with anger and confusion to the uncertainty, and cleaners claimed they had been sacked.

The council said the closure was to safeguard the "health and wellbeing" of pupils following a structural report.

It was announced on Wednesday October 17 that some classes would resume that Friday, at the school, but further investigations meant this was restricted to sixth formers who would use the school's performing arrts centre, a stand alone and new part of the school.

Teachers turned to social networking site Twitter to help pupils, sending out work and past papers for revision.

Parents meanwhile expressed concern that their children might have been exposed to asbestos prior to the school's closure, demanding to know why removal work was begun while children were still attending, and saying that they did not want to have to send them to another school to continue their studies.

Education minister Leighton Andrews meanwhile said all Welsh councils would be asked about the asbestos situation in their schools, in the light of the Cwmcarn situation.

It emerged several weeks later that the school was considered to have a "serious risk" of exposure to asbestos fibres and the council should consider demolishing it.

The report from Santia Asbestos Management, compiled at the council's request, detailed evidence of widespread contamination in ceiling voids, with more than 10 times the acceptable fibre levels in the air when when some of the heaters are used.

By December 8, almost two months after the school first closed it doors, the governors had halted a council-led asbestos survey at the 11th hour because they had serious concerns over its validity and implications.

The governors told the council shortly before its survey was to start, that they wanted to carry out their independent inspection first .

The council pointed out that as Cwmcarn is a foundation school, this was the governors' right, but that they were now taking full responsbility and liability for the site, though the governors denied this.

While this spat plays out, hundreds of the school's puipils continue to travel to the former Coleg Gwent campus in Ebbw Vale, more than 10 miles away, for their lessons.

SEPTEMBER:

September 2:

MARK Colbourne's Paralympic Games success meant that he had a post box painted gold in his honour in his home town of Tredegar - and proud mum Margaret was among the first to see it.

Mrs Colbourne travelled to London to see her son take first silver then gold on the Velodrome track and had arrived back in Tredegar with Mark's daughter Jessica late on the evening of Friday August 31.

Less than 24 hours later the post box next to the post office on Commercial Street was receiving its makeover, and the Argus had tracked down a tired but very happy Mrs Colbourne.

"Thursday was great (when he won silver), but Friday was fantastic, a wonderful day and what a performance," she said.

September 7:

CRIMINALS were warned to stay away from Cwmbran after 17 yobs were banned from 55 shops and pubs in a tough crackdown on crime.

Twenty-two offenders were arrested for shoplifting and anti-social behaviour, with 17 banned from Cwmbran town centre.

Gwent Police put the success down to the use of daily patrols, CCTV cameras in the town centre - monitored 24 hours a day from a control room, and a radio link between shops, pubs and police officers.

The pro-active approach brought a 36 per cent drop in crime in August compared to same month last year.

September 7:

NEWPORT council released a new list of 11 potential sites for gipsy and traveller families.

The move followed a decison in June to scrap a controversial previous shortlist and go back to the drawing board.

As with the first list, publication triggered a wave of protests and campaigns against using particular sites.

Seven weeks later the list was trimmed to just five sites, two in Ringland, one in Marshfield, one in Allt-yr-yn, and one in a yard off the A449 road. A final decision on whether to replace sites already identified on a deposit Local Development Plan will be made early next year.

September 12:

AN outbreak of the bug cryptosporidiosis - which causes watery diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, and fever - forced the closure of the swimming pool at the Newport Centre.

Water samples confirming the presence of cryptosporidium meant the pool had to be closed, drained, cleaned, checked again and refilled, a process that took almost five weeks.

More than 20 people were officially recorded as having picked up the bug as a result of swimming there, many reporting illness that continued for two weeks or more. Many were small children.

September 18:

THE boss of one of the UK's biggest firearms dealers brokered fraudulent deals worth more than £50 million as he battled to keep the company afloat, Cardiff Crown Court was told.

After running into financial trouble, Andrew Litt offered interest of up to 40 per cent on loans from wealthy investors, using their money to pay off other debts incurred by Newport-based DJ Litt Firearms.

Litt, jailed for 32 months for fraud, was motivated said Judge Patrick Curran by "cowardice, not greed" as he did not want his cancer-stricken father Donald to know the hugely-succesful international business he had built was crumbling.

September 18:

THREE generations of the same family, including a six-month-old baby, died in an alleged arson attack at their Cwmbran home.

Grandmother Kim Buckley, 46, her daughter Kayleigh Buckley, 17, and Kayleigh's baby Kimberley, who had only come home from hospital the previous day, all died in the blaze at Tillsland, Coed Eva.

Little Kimberley was the surviving sibling of premature twins and had spent the last six months at the Royal Gwent Hospital, having been born three months early.

Neighbours and firefighters made repeated efforts to rescue the trio to no avail.

Carl Mills, 27, was later charged with three counts of murder and remains in custody awaiting trial.

September 21:

A CRISP factory in Crumlin was destroyed in a blaze that at its height was being tackled by 60 firefighters from across South Wales.

Twenty night shift workers had to be evacuated from the Real Crisps factory on the Pen-y-Fan industrial estate in the early hours of the morning.

Residents spoke of explosions coming from the site after the fire took hold around 3.30am.

The Crumlin site, which employs 115 staff, was the only place where products under the Real Crisps brand were made A worker at the factory, Colin Goulding, 30, of Abertillery, was later charged with arson with intent to endanger life.

September 28:

NEWPORT Gwent Dragons and Wales flanker Dan Lydiate broke his left ankle just two minutes into his side's RaboDirect Pro12 League game against Edinburgh at Rodney Parade, which ended in a 32-12 win for his team.

Lydiate, Six Nations player of the tournament, had barely begun what will prove to be his final season in a Dragons shirt before a move to France.

He limped off the field supported by two backroom staff, but the extent of the injury means that even if he makes it back for a final few weeks, his prospects of a place in the British Lions squad to Australia next summer are far from certain.

OCTOBER:

October 2:

A DISUSED nuclear shelter built underneath the former headquarters of two councils must be filled in before the site can be sold, slashing the amount of money that could be made from its sale, the Argus reported.

County Hall at Cwmbran, shared by Monmouthshire and Torfaen councils, closed in March because the building has 'concrete cancer', and this and other faults ran up a £30 million repair bill.

The bunker forms only part of a huge void that will need to be filled when the building is demolished.

An estimated £900,000 price tag was subsequently reduced to £275,000.

October 4:

WHAT is 10 metres tall, luminous green and described variously as a weed and a piece of a Teletubbies' set?

It is Newbridge's Hallelujah Lamp, a piece of public art designed with the help of the town's schoolchildren and based on an old gas lamp that used to stand outside the Newbridge Hotel.

Created by artist Stephen Broadbent as part of a £125,000 programme of public art in the town, the aim is to create a place for residents to congregate for special events, marking the site's history as a meeting palce for church congregations.

October 9 and 10:

THE Wales Audit Office declared that the actions of some staff and members of the Newport-based Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board were "likely to undermine public confidence."

The board, with an income of around £1 million a year, lost sight of the fact it is a public body.

It manages the drainage system on the Gwent Levels but could not demonstrate to auditors that it had always spent public money wisely.

Damning findings included the spending of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on inspection visits to Europe, with no proper bases for business or means of assessing their benefits.

October 13:

A LITTLE under a year ago, the Argus reported, Nathan Laing was fighting for his life after an attack in Cyprus left him in a medically induced coma suffering a brian injury.

But after 12 months learning to walk unaided again, the 27-year-old, from Caerleon, was preparing to take on the Cardiff Half Marathon in aid of the charity Headway, which supported him during his recovery.

Mr Laing spent more than 10 weeks in hospital in Cyprus and Newport, after being set upon by a gang of men outside a nightclub in Paphos in October 2011 while on holiday with his brother.

His mum Vivienne said: "I am so proud of Nathan's determination."

October 19:

LEGEND of the boxing ring Joe Calzaghe announced that he was considering a return to the sport, this time following in his father Enzo;s footsteps as a trainer.

Calzaghe, who reigned supreme as a two-weight world champion and retired undefeated in 2008 after 46 professional fights, had a brief dalliance with promoting before moving away from the sport completely.

However, he said he was now ready to follow in his father's footsteps, if he could find the right fighter to motivate him into a return.

October 27:

RETAIL giant Marks and Spencer announced it would be moving out of its Newport city centre store early in 2013.

The Commercial Street store will close in mid-January with a new store at the Newport Retail Park, Spytty, opening the following day.

The closure had originally been announced in 2010, but the proposed closure earlier this year was delayed.

The Spytty store will be bigger than the city centre one, with 100 staff, 30 of whom are taking up new posts.

October 31:

A NEWPORT man began a life sentence after a "sustained and brutal" attack on a Polish baker that Judge Mr Justice Griffith Wiliams said were the worst he had ever seen.

In handing 26-year-old Gavin Mills, of Glebe Street, a minumum prison term of 12-and-a-half years, the judge described the "ferocious" kicks and stamps that left shoe marks on 60-year-old Jerzy Dubiniec's clothing and chest.

Mills pleaded guilty to murder on the second day of his trial and Newport Crown Court heard how he repeatedly kicked, butted, punched and jumped on Mr Dubiniec's body as he lay on the the city's Broad Street in the small hours of August 20 2011.

The reason remained unknown.

TOMORROW, the last part of our review of the year looks back at November and December.

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