Optimistic future for Fenland schools as Cabinet told of multi-million pound fast track to improveme

FENLAND’S multi million pound transformations of its secondary schools is on track and set to deliver improvements to an ambitious timetable, says the scheme’s director.

Alan Kippax will tell Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet next week that both schemes under construction are on schedule and the remaining schemes will follow quickly.

He said: "The development of exciting new schools at the heart of local communities is also likely to stimulate a new interest in learning and education."

Cambridgeshire was one of the last local authorities to enter the national Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. It secured funding in May last year, just after the election and before the Coalition Government pulled the plug on hundreds of similar schemes throughout the country.

Building work began on the first phase, at the Thomas Clarkson and Neale-Wade Community Colleges, last July and is on track for completion by 2013.


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Planning applications, meanwhile, will be submitted next month for Fenlands' three other schools - Cromwell Community College in Chatteris, Sir Harry Smith Community College in Whittlesey and Meadowgate Special School in Wisbech.

Mr Kippax said the BSF programme would include all 3,500 secondary schools in England which would have been rebuilt or refurbished over a 15-year programme.

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He said: "A limited number which had passed financial close, including the six BSF schools in Fenland, were permitted to continue."

 

DEFT footwork by Cambridgeshire County Council not only kept in place the original two Fenland BSF projects but ensured funding was there to complete the entire programme locally.

Government spending cuts impacted on the remaining Fenland schools but fears of a 40 per cent reduction gave way to an actual budget cut of 18 per cent from the �38million proposed. Mr Kippax, describes the conclusions as "a reasonable balance between the need to reduce the costs without compromising the fundamental ingredients of each scheme".

REBUILDING and partial remodelling of Thomas Clarkson Community College in Wisbech and Neale-Wade Community College in March is now eight months into the programme.

Cold weather before Christmas caused some disruption which has forced changes to get the schemes back on track but the county council says the contracted handover dates remain on target.

The first phase of the Thomas Clarkson will be complete by January 2012 with final completion on target for November 2012.

At Neale-Wade there are four phases of work. The first phase will be completed by August this year, phase two by August 2012, phase three by August 2012, and final completion in February 2013.

 

ON February 14, the county council got final approval for �28.5million to be spent on three other schools: Sir Harry Smith Community College, Whittlesey; Cromwell Community College, Chatteris, and Meadowgate Special School, Wisbech.

Release of the funds will happen once detailed contracts are finalised, hopefully later this year.

Design work began in January and Mr Kippax says all three schools will employ the same contractor, Kier Construction, but with different design teams.

Mr Kippax says the council "has set a challenging timetable" to get contractual arrangements for the building work by July.

Highlights of the schedule include:

- Planning applications submitted next month

- Planning consents secured by July

- Contracts signed by July

- Start on site August

- Completion within two years

Cabinet will have explained to them next week the risks associated with such a fast delivery, including explaining to parents, governors and teachers details of the proposals.

However, many meetings have already taken place, says Mr Kippax, and as a result "the design development process remains on track to achieve the ambition programme".

 

NOT only will Chatteris get a revamped community college, but the town council and Fenland District Council will ensure a new leisure suite is included.

Mr Kippax will tell Cabinet that the town and district councils are jointly funding the leisure centre "as part of a longer-term strategy to improve community sports provision in Chatteris".

A new all-weather pitch is currently being built at the college and the proposed leisure facility will include a fitness gym, dance studio and changing and reception areas.

Mr Kippax said: "This new facility is likely to be housed in a separate, purpose-built building on the college site and will be available for community use throughout the day and in the evenings."

He said developing the leisure suite as part of the BSF project offered many advantages including the chance to "master plan the site with these different uses in mind". It would also cause less disruption than if both were built at different times and it means people in Chatteris get to use the facilities much sooner.

The leisure suite will be run by a "not for profit community enterprise" and to date, he said, the project is progressing well.

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