Thu, 15 Sept 2016
THE NEXT step needed to build an urgently needed new primary school in Theale is set to be decided tonight (Thursday).
But there are fears that the school will not be open in time.
The Ofsted-rated outstanding Theale Primary School is oversubscribed and needs to expand to meet demand.
West Berkshire Council approved its own plans for the new school in July this year, however, it is no closer to securing the land needed for the vital school.
The land at the North Street playing fields is owned by the Englefield Estate, which it leases to Theale Parish Council. The parish council objected to the plans over concerns about children’s safety and traffic along Englefield Road.
The district and parish council have been locked in negotiations over releasing the land but have reached a stalemate.
And with no agreement in sight, West Berkshire Council is pressing ahead with a compulsory purchase order to unlock the five acres of land.
The council has earmarked £7.46m for the scheme, which was intended to cover all costs of the project. But it says the delay has added a small, but low, chance of risk to the scheme as construction costs could rise.
An estimated £85,000 to £100,000 is anticipated to be incurred through the CPO and delayed construction, which will have to be clawed out of the existing budget.
The project has a five per cent contingency to cover any unforeseen construction problems. The council said that though undesirable, these extra costs can be underwritten by the contingency.
“There will be a risk that should major unforeseen problems arise once construction work commences, remaining contingency monies may not be able to fully cover the extra costs as forecast. At present this risk is viewed as manageable,” the report says.
And it is this risk that has led Theale’s district councillor to fear that the urgent school will not be open in time.
The council said it needed to open the school by September 2017 or it would risk losing the funding for the project.
Alan Macro (Lib Dem) said: “Assuming the council passes the resolution, it has to be confirmed by the secretary of state and that can take months or up to a year, which means they can’t do any work until the CPO is granted.”
“It could be this time next year, which will make it hard to be able to open the school for the September 2018 intake.
“I hope I’m wrong but I suspect that’s going to be difficult. I hope that Theale Parish Council realise that the whole thing is inevitable and decide to change their minds.”