Posted: Fri 23rd Feb 2024

Council Approves £14 Million Construction Contract for Replacement Primary School in Cwmbran /

COUNCILLORS have given the go-ahead for a £14 million construction contract for a replacement primary school – but have heard it won’t solve traffic problems. 
Pre-construction work has already been completed to prepare for a new two-storey school, and a separate Flying Start childcare building, at Maendy Junior and Infant School in Cwmbran, but the project was paused due to escalating costs. 
In September 2022 the council said costs for the replacement school would hit £17.1 million and the construction contract, to complete the project, would be £15.3 million. 
But just six weeks before work was due to start the contractor warned costs had risen by a further £3 million, taking the total cost closer to £20 million. 
That forced a rethink which led to a redesign, that has seen a proposed new access to the school scrapped, and “value engineering meetings” between the council and contractor to drive down costs. 
That has seen the project brought back within the approved budget of £17.1 million and the contract, which has been awarded to the previously appointed main contractor Morgan Sindall, has been revised down to £14,368,811.
Cllr Richard Clark, Torfaen’s cabinet member for education, said costs had almost become “out of reach”.
The new building will be net zero carbon with two playgrounds, a forest school zone, play equipment and grass sports pitch, and Cllr Clark said he wanted to thank the school “for being happy with what they will end up with.” 
Planning permission was approved earlier in February when concerns about increased traffic, as access will continue to be from Wayfield Crescent, was raised due to capacity increasing from 231 to 420 pupils. There will also be 30 nursery places at the Flying Start building which is an increase of four. 
The site will have 60 parking bays and six “drop off” spaces and shelter for 39 bicycles, but it won’t be available until construction is completed which will take place as children learn in the existing buildings before they are demolished. 
The cabinet report didn’t discuss traffic but Cllr Clark acknowledged the concerns.
The Croesyceiliog Labour councillor said: “The movement of traffic has been raised elsewhere. I think the current design wouldn’t ameliorate the existing problem, it won’t remedy it.  
“The school is where it is, on one of our estates that has high parking but what we have done, and will continue to do, is push active travel routes and with the majority of students coming from walking distance we would emphasis with parents, and others, it will be ideal as part of an active travel route to get there.” 
When the application was passed by the planning committee Llantarnam independent Alan Slade highlighted a report estimated there will be an additional 100 two-way journeys to and from the school. 
He told the committee with more children coming from south Sebastopol he didn’t believe they would be walking.  
“These people will not walk, I will tell you that for nothing,” said Cllr Slade: “It’s a four-mile round trip, two miles in the morning and two miles in the afternoon.” 
The council has claimed construction work will start in March ready for completion in summer 2025. However the planning permission could be called in by the Welsh Government as part of the site, where the existing infants school is and where it’s planned to build the Flying Start building, is within a possible flood zone.  
Jason O’Brien, the council’s director for schools, said a contingency of £221,940 is included in the council’s costs, outside of the total price, and warned any delay could increase costs in the future. 
The council is putting £5.2 million towards construction with £10.7 million from the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme and a further £1.1 million from its Childcare Capital Grant. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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