Works on new college for Burgess Hill special school unlikely to start during summer holidays

The start of works planned for the summer holidays on a new college at a Burgess Hill special school are ‘unlikely to go ahead’, governors have warned.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 5:03 pm
Woodlands Meed College. Pic Steve Robards SR20021703 SUS-200217-165155001

West Sussex County Council has committed up to £20m of capital funding for the new facilities at Woodlands Meed on its current playing field site in Birchwood Grove Road.

A planning application for purpose-built facilities south of the existing college buildings was approved in late March.

It was hoped that works could start in the summer holidays to minimise disruption to the school, but this is now in doubt.

In an update posted on the school’s website last week, governors said that WSCC had not yet concluded negotiations with the building contractor as it is looking for price certainty.

The entire project team was keen to maximise the summer holidays to get some of the preparation of the site ready and these would be irreversible works not possible to reinstate.

The governors went on to say that without having a full proper building contract in place, WSCC had proposed issuing a company with a letter of limited instructions, to allow some work to start.

This would mean the council was not yet committed to entering into a full contract as this would still be dependent on agreeing a firm price.

The update added: “The school therefore faced the risk that work could start on site, but the contract might not be agreed with ISG leaving the school in an even worse state than it is now, no outside facilities and no prospect of a new building.”

There are also still some points outstanding before governors sign off on a development agreement with WSCC.

Although the governors are ‘extremely concerned’ about allowing the contractor to start excavation and demolition works without an assurance the new building would be completed, they have now been notified by WSCC it does not intend to issue the letter of limited instructions until the development agreement is completed. The governors concluded: “It looks unlikely therefore that summer works will go ahead.”

The delays have not gone down well with parents.

A statement from the Complete Woodlands Meed Campaign described their ‘anger and frustration’ at repeated failings and lack of transparency by the county council. The group said the delays were ‘not acceptable’ and called for answers on when the build will start and when the promised virtual public meeting will take place.

Families are ‘devastated, anxious, frustrated and worried’, they added.

A WSCC spokesman said: “There continues to be a number of complex technical and legal issues to resolve with regards to the Woodlands Meed College project, and the college is not ready to sign the development agreement.

“We are working with our project partners to resolve the outstanding issues. Unfortunately it now seems unlikely that demolition work on the college site can begin over the summer holiday as planned. We remain fully committed to this important £20million project to rebuild the college and we will update all parties as soon as there is a clearer way forward.”