THE CROFT School saga has taken another twist after it emerged that the construction work is forecast to cost Swindon Council £700,000 more than originally hoped.
The project, which is already behind schedule and set to remain a building site until Christmas despite welcoming its first intake of reception pupils on Monday, has prompted one councillor to say it is a good job the town did not host the Olympics.
The primary school for up to 420 children next to Croft Sports Centre, off Marlborough Lane, opened at the beginning of the week, but parts of the building which are not needed by the pupils, are still under construction. The council blames this on delays in getting planning approval.
Swindon Council originally aimed for a cost of £4.5m, but it has been forced to dip into a £500,000 contingency which was budgeted for unforeseen work and expects to use an extra £200,000 from the capital budget as well.
A council spokesman said most of this additional cost was attributable to groundworks problems caused by the wet summer, although some has occurred by costs associated with the partial opening of the school, such as fencing to separate staff and pupils from the building site.
He said the costs would have occurred with any building, and were nothing to do with the school’s design.
Croft School is the latest in a series of projects to be dogged by delays in recent times – and not the first to be blamed on the weather.
The station forecourt, work on the Link Centre pool and the demolition of the Swindon College site have all been delayed for numerous reasons.
Coun Stan Pajak, the Lib Dem group leader, said Swindon was no worse than other towns at construction but was poor at estimating completion dates.
He said: “The work on the station forecourt had dates and, blow me, they found new cables underground and everything else has run into problems.
“And we’re terribly bad at giving reasonable answers when things should be completed so we make ourselves look bad.
“It does seem to be a Swindon habit to underestimate the time it’s going to take and, blow me, get the time wrong.
“It’s just as well we didn’t run the Olympics.”
Croft School is the first school to be built under the council’s own modular Class Solutions design, which the council is trying to sell to other authorities on the basis it is one third cheaper to build than a traditional school, quicker to construct and cheaper to run and maintain.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The total cost of the Croft School is still not known because some areas of the building, which are not needed by the pupils are not yet finished.
“However, our current forecast spend on the project is £5.2m. The £700,000 figure quoted in the Cabinet report is made up of £500,000 which was taken from the original estimate of £5m to pay for unforeseen work, and the remaining £200,000 takes it to the £5.2m total.
Coun Nadine Watts (Lab, Old Town) said: “I think the Labour group has always believed the cost of groundworks should be adequately taken into account.
“It’s interesting how they’re using the ‘weather was bad’ excuse a lot at the moment, whether it’s to do with the green waste collection or the delays in the railway forecourt improvements.”