Council to discuss school rebuilds

First published in News

A DECISION by top Monmouthshire councillors to approve multi-million-pound grants to rebuild two of the county's four high schools will be discussed by all members tomorrow.

Earlier this month Monmouthshire council's cabinet decided, pending approval from Welsh Government, to agree budgets for Caldicot Comprehensive of £31.5 million for a rebuild; £36 million at Monmouth Comprehensive; £3.4 million for primary school investment and £5 million towards a Welsh medium secondary school, potentially in Newport.

Chepstow and Abergavenny's King Henry are due to be rebuilt during a second phase of work later this decade, with phase one running from 2013 to 2018.

Cabinet members agreed that half the funding will come from Welsh Government, amounting to £37.5 million, and the rest from Monmouthshire council by way of £29.5 million worth of capital receipts and £8 million borrowing.

Last week the Free Press reported the cabinet said it was committed to keeping a swimming pool within Monmouth, subject to the budget being agreed at full council.

The new school on the existing Monmouth site is expected to be better integrated with the existing leisure centre and the town, "giving it a civic presence" according to the preferred option chosen by cabinet members earlier this month.

There will be some disruption to the existing school during construction but this "can be managed", according to the report going before councillors today, as well as better traffic management and pupil routes to school.

A feasibility study on flooding on the site is expected by the end of next month.

On the agenda for Thursday, Councillor Penny Jones, Conservative member for Raglan, put forward a notice of motion thanking the Welsh Government for its financial contribution.

The council has chosen Interserve as its partnering contractor in delivering the first phase of the programme.

Councillor Liz Hacket Pain, cabinet member for schools and learning, said earlier this year: “At one point in this we’ll be building three new schools at the same time. But I’m very confident in our ability to deliver on this very ambitious project.”

The architect in charge of replacing all four of the county's high schools, Simon Kneafsey said he hopes to create “an international centre for excellence” in education in the county and keep temporary accommodation — such as demountable classrooms — and disruption to a minimum during the construction phase.

Sarah McGuinness, chief officer for education, described the schools would be the most up-to-date in the UK while cabinet member for education Councillor Liz Hacket-Pain said this would probably be the biggest project the council will ever work on.

The authority’s education department is currently in special measures with Estyn.

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