CHILDREN and staff at a St Helens school are working in “appalling conditions”, a senior councillor has said as the green light was given to continue work on a new build amid spiralling costs.

St Helens Borough Council agreed in principle back in May 2018 to redevelop the Ashurst Primary School, in New Glade Hill, Blackbrook.

Last September, cabinet approved a capital project to construct a new school on the existing site at an estimated cost of £6.022 million, including £150,000 in design fees.

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On Wednesday, cabinet approved the allocation of £1.155 million in respect to the increased estimated costs associated with the scheme.

This brings the total estimated cost to just under £7.2 million.

Councillors also agreed that a planning application is submitted in respect of the proposed construction of the new school premises, which will include a public consultation.

St Helens Star: Ashurst Primary School Ashurst Primary School

Cabinet previously approved a capital project to construct a new school on the existing site at an estimated cost of £6.022 million, including £150,000 in design fees.

Kier North West Ltd have been appointed through the Scape Group framework to develop the scheme.

The construction of a new school was proposed in order to address suitability issues, including undersized classrooms, a smaller than recommended hall, a lack of circulation routes.

There is also a structural problem that is causing water to leak through the roof.

A report that went before cabinet today said that, following additional site surveys, cost reviews and design changes, the estimated scheme cost has increased to £7.177 million.

Cllr Sue Murphy, cabinet member for developing young people, said: “If agreed, this will provide a much-needed facility for these children.

“And they have been really working in appalling conditions. And I know they will be welcomed by the staff, headteacher and the community.”

St Helens Star: Here is the proposed scheme design Here is the proposed scheme design

Cllr Murphy, deputy leader of the council, said design changes to address the “COVID-19 challenges”, have also contributed to the increase in estimated costs.

The report says additional provision has been made for potential costs associated with COVID-19, such as changes to construction practices to maintain social distancing.

Estimated costs also reflect the current scheme design and assumptions in relation to site abnormal costs – additional or unusual costs that a developer might face when developing a site – and allowances for using adjacent land for construction parking.

The cost increase will be met from Basic Need funding that is currently unallocated within the children’s services capital programme.

Basic Need funding is provided to local authorities to assist them in fulfilling their duty to ensure there are enough school places for children in their local area.

In the current financial year, the total amount of uncommitted basic need funding within the children’s services capital programme is £1.254 million.

This would reduce the amount of available basic need monies to £99,000.

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“Based on current indicative pupil numbers for the academic year 2020/21, it is not considered that further capital works are required to increase pupil places in St Helens schools,” the report says.

“As such, although the amount of residual basic need funding will be relatively small (£99k) there are no additional planned works.

“The condition of the existing Ashurst School is such that rebuilding the school is considered to be a high priority.”