Proposed Kingsley Fields Primary School (Halliday Meecham Architects) (1)

Cheshire East’s plans to delay building a new Nantwich school for a year because of spiralling costs could actually end up costing the council more, councillors said.

Planning permission was granted in June for the new 210-pupil Kingsbourne Academy on the Kingsley Fields development.

The school was due to open for its first class of 30 reception pupils in September 2024.

But the children and families committee was told this week the opening will be delayed for a year because of legal, planning and cost-related issues.

The cost is now put at £8.612m. The budget approved in the children and families capital programme is £7.78m.

One of the reasons for the delay relates to who is responsible for building a new £443K substation for the power supply.

But when Alsager councillor Reg Kain (Lib Dem) tried asking questions about this he was told by a legal officer it could not be discussed in a public forum.

Cllr Rachel Bailey (Con) said the delay would have implications for the children and potentially for costs.

“This is significant for families whose children are starting school, will start in one school and then will probably will have to relocate,” she said.

The Audlem councillor said the committee had been told in the private briefing it was unlikely there would be any additional home to school transport costs to the council because local schools had the capacity to take the reception children.

But she said this couldn’t be guaranteed as the number of places required could have increased by September.

She added that when it came to the potential for spiralling costs because of construction delays “we’ve seen what’s happened with Middlewich Eastern Bypass”.

Cllr Jos Saunders (Poynton, Con) pointed out this was the second school build in Cheshire East recently which had run over budget and been delayed.

“Earlier this year we had the Springfield School expansion [satellite site at Wilmslow] where the budget went from £3m to over £6m – more than double in 18 months – and we now seem to have the same situation, so we’re already nearly £1m over budget and a delay of a year before it even happens,” said Cllr Saunders.

She said she was most concerned about the provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities because the new school was going to have 14 SEND spaces.

“It’s not just £1m on this build it’s also going to be money on children having to access education outside of our area and associated transport costs, so I would like to know how much more that’s going to put on that million pounds.”

She asked why this was happening again.

Claire Williamson, director of strong start, family help and integration and SEND, said there was over-spend on all public builds at the moment, whether hospitals or police stations, because of soaring inflation.

She told the committee: “We did really scrutinise our decision making and we thought of our children and the implications…… Given that we were only looking at reception in that first year, and then we looked at sufficiency across the board, we with some confidence, made the decision in regard of the delay because what we wanted to do was ensure that, first and foremost, we were understanding what those cost implications were.

“As we’re moving into next year we’re hoping that inflation will come down and that will obviously have an impact in regards of build and the cost of build as we’re moving forward.”

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