Cash Strapped Developers Say Multi-storey Primary Schools Are The Future

PUBLISHED: 16:39 27 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:58 04 May 2010

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CASH strapped developers have called for multi-storey primary schools to be considered for Cambridgeshire as a way of saving money. The revolutionary plan has been offered up as a way of reducing the amount house builders pay to the county council for pri

CASH strapped developers have called for multi-storey primary schools to be considered for Cambridgeshire as a way of saving money.

The revolutionary plan has been offered up as a way of reducing the amount house builders pay to the county council for primary school provision on new housing estates.

With house building in Cambridgeshire severely slowed - or stopped altogether in some areas because of the economic crisis- developers say they can no longer afford to pay the £7 million expected of them for schools in new communities.

"The changed economic circumstances do need to be recognised," says Ian Trafford, education capital projects manager for the county council.

Whilst recognising that the council has planned on the basis that new schools will be wholly funded by the developers via section 106 planning agreements, he also believes the county council cannot compromise on its requirements.

"The council cannot deliver savings that are attributed to design solutions where they do not exist," says Mr Trafford.

The issue has pre-occupied the children and young people's policy development group throughout this year and a report to Cabinet this month was deferred for further discussion in the autumn.

Mr Trafford says sites of 2.3 hectares for primary schools have been sought on the Clay Farm and Trumpington Meadows developments in the Cambridge Southern Fringe, off Huntingdon Road in the north west fringe of Cambridge, and at Northstowe.

"The economic downturn and fall in asset prices has had an impact upon the potential viability of many housing developments," says Mr Trafford.

The council was approached by Cambridgeshire Horizons to consider alternative methods of funding, and "it is clear that new approaches need to be considered given the radically changed economic circumstances that are now faced compared to when these developments were first planned".

Mr Trafford says: "Projections of the level of s106 funding available, while ensuring that the developments are commercially viable, have had to be reduced significantly. "

He says it is "entirely appropriate" that service infrastructure costs are re-examined but councillors are yet to be convinced multi storey options are a way forward.

Comparisons to Germany, where multi storey primary schools are commonplace, have been dismissed because of the wider community use expected in English schools. German schools focus more narrowly on formal education, they finish at lunchtime and so do not need major movements around the school, and there is no requirement for a daily collective act of worship.

Mr Trafford says an impact on the performance of new schools is difficult to quantify but he believes multi storey designs and reduction in site area can have a negative impact but there are examples from around the country of where schools occupy buildings of two storeys or more and management strategies put into place accordingly.

"In terms of construction costs, the addition of storeys contributes few savings," he says. Lifts would be needed, structural components and stairs, stairwells and lobbies occupy more space, and labour time is increased over a building on a number of levels.

"The county council research undertaken on the issue concluded that single storey or multi storey builds were broadly equivalent in their construction costs," he concluded.

Cabinet has postponed a decision until September to allow for more discussions on the issues.


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