New primary school for Frenchay delayed again

July 28 2020

THE planned opening of the new Frenchay Primary School has been postponed again.
The school is due to move to a new home on the former Frenchay Hospital site, increasing capacity from 140 to 420 children, aged four to 11.
The move is needed partly because of the increasing local school-age population, as up to 490 new homes are built on the hospital site, creating an expected demand for 180 new primary school places.
Funding for the new £6.9million school was approved two years ago, and initially residents were told it was due to open in September of this year, before the date was moved back by 12 months.
Now South Gloucestershire Council says that contractors cannot commit to costs or timescales because of the Covid-19 pandemic, so the authority is “unable to move forward” with their appointment and the target to open in September 2021 cannot be hit.
The school has no room to expand at its current cramped location in Church Road.
Labour councillor Alison Evans told a council meeting on July 1 that Frenchay was the only school in South Gloucestershire to have space only for key workers’ children and to not open to further pupils.
In a written reply to her question about the future of the school, Conservative cabinet member for schools Erica Williams said plans to rebuild the school had not been “shelved” - but admitted the delays were “frustrating” and “extremely disappointing”.
Cllr Williams said it remained a “priority scheme” for the council.
She said: “The rebuild of the school on its new site was planned so that the new building would be ready for September 2021.
“Unfortunately this timescale has been impacted by COVID-19 and the scheme is delayed.
“Prior to lockdown, the council had invited tenders from potential contractors and was in the process of evaluating the tender returns for quality, cost and timeliness of delivery.
“However, as a consequence of the lockdown, contractors are currently unable to commit to cost certainty or a definitive date for completion, which means that the council is unable to move forward with the appointment of a contractor.
“The council acknowledges that this is frustrating news and that the Frenchay community, understandably, will be extremely disappointed.
“However, parents/carers, children and residents may be reassured to hear that the council is keen to take the scheme forward once the position changes and will share details of the revised timescale for the project as soon as we have a confirmed timeline that is deliverable."
Council leader Toby Savage told a cabinet meeting on July 6 that the authority’s capital schemes had been affected by the coronavirus.
He said: “We have a record capital investment programme but we are reliant on the construction industry being able to deliver those improvement schemes."

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service