South East Wales

Cwmcarn High School asbestos removal starts at £1m cost

Cwmcarn High School
Image caption Campaigners have called for Cwmcarn High School to reopen

Work has started on removing asbestos from a school which was forced to close.

Cwmcarn High School, in Caerphilly county, shut in October 2012 over fears that its 900 pupils were at risk.

They have since been taught 12 miles (19km) away at Coleg Gwent's Ebbw Vale campus, prompting parents' protests.

Caerphilly council is paying £1m to deal with the asbestos, with pupils expected back for the autumn term in September.

"Local people will notice activity on the Cwmcarn site as contractors start removing asbestos from within the building," said Gary Thomas, the chair of governors.

"This is fantastic news and clearly shows that progress is being made following our agreement to work with the council to get the school back up and running at the start of September."

The agreement for the local authority to carry out the work follows frustration among some that a deal had not been struck with the school earlier.

The council had blamed "lack of progress" by decision makers at Cwmcarn High while governors claim the council has introduced "onerous terms and conditions".

A statement on the school website previously said that the council had objected after the school's contractors had been given approval to start work on the asbestos removal.

Health risk

It prompted concerns that pupils would not be back at Cwmcarn for the start of the new school year.

But following a meeting between the council and governors, it was agreed that the council would carry out the work.

In April, Caerphilly councillors had agreed to spend around £1m on the asbestos removal work and temporary classrooms.

The school closed after a council-commissioned report found that asbestos posed a potential health risk.

But in February this year a Health and Safety Executive report said the site was essentially free of asbestos contamination.

Another report in March found there was little difference between the two documents, apart from the conclusions.

Earlier this year campaigners marched through Cwmcarn to call for the school to re-open after the conflicting reports were published.

Rhianon Passmore, Caerphilly council's cabinet member for education said: "There is a lot to be done in a short space of time, but we are working closely with the school leadership and we are confident that works will be completed on time and on budget."

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