PUPILS and staff currently occupying crumbling Victorian buildings could still move into their new school in September 2008 despite delays and controversy.

Progress could soon be made on the planned replacement for Durham Road Junior and Infant Schools, Newport city councillors were told.

At a meeting of the full council, St Julians Councillor Ed Townsend asked when the final contracts would be exchanged.

Nothing had happened on the site of the new school in the Glebelands since a short burst of activity in May, he said.

Councillor Townsend wanted to know if the planned opening date of September 2008 was still viable. "If not, what contigencies are in place."

Councillor Bob Poole, cabinet member for young people's services, said there had been a number of meetings with the Assembly which were due to end this month and would be followed by consultation with members and residents.

A private finance initiative scheme would fund the new school and these arrangements were also due to move forward next month.

Councillor Poole confirmed that the proposed opening date remained the same.

New buildings were first suggested nearly two decades ago and official inspectors have criticised the condition of the present schools.

But plans to put a new school on a site at the Glebelands have been dogged by controversy since it was discovered the ground was contaminated with metals and oils.

Developers and the council have failed to convince a group of opponents the land can be made safe and they have continued to campaign against the proposed location.

Outline planning permission was first given for the new schools in 2000 despite the health fears and in 2004 the design, access arrangements and measures to prevent the contamination of groundwater were also approved.