Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The £150K Bill to Make £14M Failed School Building Safe

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The £150K Bill to Make £14M Failed School Building Safe

Article excerpt

A SCHOOL which cost millions and ended in failure is still costing taxpayers money - even though it has closed.

Greater Manchester University Technical College cost £9m to set up and another £5m to run - but was shut down in the summer after just three academic years.

The purpose-built campus has now been passed to another school - Oasis Academy - to use. But an M.E.N. investigation has revealed up to £150,000 is having to be spent to make the building safe and fix structural defects.

Our investigation uncovered a string of problems at the UTC's former Middleton Road campus - which was supposed to be state-ofthe-art.

Missing and defective fire doors, faulty fire sealants, broken lifts, loose wall panels and malfunctioning electrical and mechanical systems were found by council officials who visited immediately after the school's closure. On top of this, £250,000 more will need to be spent to convert the building for use by Oasis Academy, who are expanding amid demand for school places.

One MP has described the problems at the former Greater Manchester UTC site as 'shocking',' warning that the Grenfell Tower disaster has already proved the importance of rigorous fire safety standards.

Jim McMahon has now called for a government investigation, while the council's education chief has slammed Greater Manchester UTC as a ministerial 'vanity project' for which the town hall is now footing the bill.

The school - which was outside of council control - opened in September 2014, but was shut down in June this year due to plummeting pupil numbers, soaring truancy and rockbottom GCSE results.

After its closure the school building was then immediately handed over to Oldham council so it could be used by the Oasis Academy to provide much-needed local school places.

However an M.E.N. Freedom of Information request revealed that when town hall officials entered the campus they found an array of defects.

The response from Oldham council states: "As part of this inspection a scope of works was agreed which included making good damage and defects with regard to the fire doors, missing fire doors due to damage and/or hinge failures, fire and smoke sealing of heads of walls, problems with lifts not operating, issues around fixing of wall panels and operation of mechanical and electrical systems."

Of the £400,000 or so that is now being spent converting the UTC building for Oasis Academy's use, £100,000-£150,000 'will be due to the making good of defects', said the council.

It remains unclear how many of the school's faults date back to the building's construction and how many could have arisen out of poor maintenance.

The root causes are now being investigated by the council and the school's original lead building contractor, Willmott Dixon. But Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham and Royton, has called for a full government inquiry. …

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