Cladding on the soon to open £25m replacement high school in Neston is safe, the borough’s schools chief has said.
The issue at the 1,750 place Raby Park Road campus was raised by Little Neston and Burton councillor Nigel Jones (Con) at a full council meeting.
He asked ‘if the appropriate portfolio holder’ could confirm the cladding installed at the recently completed school ‘is safe? A yes or no answer will suffice’.
Ellesmere Port Sutton ward councillor Nicole Meardon (Lab), cabinet member for children and young people, replied: “Cllr Jones has already received a comprehensive response to this issue from officers and from the headteacher of Neston High School.”
She explained the new Neston High had been rebuilt through a priority school building programme launched in 2011 by Whitehall.
Although Neston High was, and is, an academy, council officers had worked with the school to submit a successful bid to replace the school buildings, some of which date back to January 1958.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had been responsible for the planning, design and building of the new school and in 2013 agreement had been reached between the agency, the school and the council outlining the roles and responsibilities for all parties involved.
The design and technical specification was a ‘key role’ of the agency.
The specification of the cladding was referred to in design documents and conditions on the planning permission had covered the appearance of the cladding with its fire safety a matter for building regulations.
“The building control service for the construction of Neston High School has been provided by a private sector building control company,” said Cllr Meardon.
“The contractor appointed their own approved inspector which they are legally entitled to do. The local authority building control service would not be requested for any form of permission, consulted on aspects of design or to inspect any works on site when an approved inspector has been appointed.
“The approved inspector for Neston High School has not reverted the application back to the local authority at any time.”
The agency had provided information to the school regarding the cladding and this had been passed on to Cllr Jones by the headteacher.
Their statement included advice that ‘all projects delivered by ESFA comply with current guidance relating to fire safety’ with contractors required to ensure compliance with building regulations through the development of a fire strategy forming part of the design of the school.
The school is fitted with automatic fire detection and an automatic sprinkler system and has fire ‘compartmentation’ and means of escape in excess of that required for building regulations.
It is also a three storey building with the uppermost floor less than 18m above ground level.
There are ‘small elements’ of cladding specified with foam board insulation which meet fire safety requirements.
Thanking Cllr Meardon, Cllr Jones said he had been at ‘very great pains to express my gratitude to the director of education and the head of Neston High School for their respective responses to my enquiry to them on this difficult subject”.
He added: “As has been acknowledged in various quarters, the regulations dealing with cladding and the like are far from clear and as has been shown through the tragic events of Grenfell Tower, residents will always look to their local authority first for clear answers, advice and guidance. That is why, in response to residents’ enquiries that I have received, I sought the clarification that I did from Cllr Meardon.”
The adjoining Neston Recreation Centre run by Brio Leisure and used by the school is having a £2.2m makeover.