Rocketing archaeological costs force Neale Wade to axe some of its �25 million expansion

ROCKETING costs of completing an archaeological dig at the Neale Wade Community College, March, has forced the county council to axe part of the �25 million project to balance the books.

OUT goes a two storey extension to the existing three storey 1960s tower

OUT goes an internet cafe formerly included inside a small glass bubble or pod which extended into the eastern courtyard.

DOWN comes the size of the dining and kitchen area

STAYING is the 1990s detached teaching block next to Barkers Lane which will now be refurbished

I can reveal that �100,000 has been spent already on archaeological work and that up to 10 full and part time staff are involved and will remain for much of the two year construction period.

Alan Kippax, project director for Building Schools for the Future and overseeing the refurbishment of the college, said: “The total pot available is a finite amount and what we spend in one area can’t be spent in another. “It’s a balance of priorities and clearly we knew there would be some archaeological works and we need to make great sums available for further such works and discoveries.”

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Mr Kippax said the archaeological works completed to date also had implications for foundations “since once you start de stabilising the land then when you need to worry about costs. It’s a consequence of archaeology, disturbing the ground and so on”.

He said they were now re configuring some of the project “and with the school’s blessing to try and live within our means and make sure archaeology doesn’t raise surprises which we come to rue.

“Evidence of the Bronze Age and medieval history had been uncovered and if you speak to an archaeologist he will say it’s very significant, others may take a different view.”

He said a fresh application to revise the scheme was necessary “since issues such as elevations from the Wimblington Road do change subtlety and hence it’s right to say it’s a change to existing planning permission”.

Alison Hutchinson, of Taylor Vintners solicitors, has prepared an amended design statement in which she admits “costs in relation to archaeology have so far exceeded previous budgetary expectations.

“Therefore whilst Neale Wade is still in the BSF programme to go ahead with the improvement works, amendments to the approved scheme are now needed to ensure the building works can proceed within the reduced construction budget.”

She confirms the main changes will involve deleting a two storey extension, dropping an external internet cafe pod, reducing the size of the kitchen and dining area, and retaining a 1990s teaching block adjacent to Barkers Lane.

Overall the amount of floor space to be demolished drops from 6,452 square metres to 6,150 square metres, with a 500 square metre reduction in new floor space.

Councillor Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, said he was horrified to learn of the changes which could have implications for all Fenland sites involved in BSF projects.

He described the archaeological works as “a complete waste of time and money- a bureaucrat’s paradise in fact” and said properly prepared desk top studies could have eliminated the need for such work to be carried out.

With much of the school built in the latter part of the last century it was unlikely to yield much, he said, and it was time the new coalition Government ended the current policy.

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