Friday 6 December 2019

Bill to fix building work defects at schools built by WBS reaches €40m

A section of Ardgillan Community College remains closed while a plan is developed to allow its re-opening
A section of Ardgillan Community College remains closed while a plan is developed to allow its re-opening
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The bill for the remediation programme for schools caught up in the controversy over building safety defects is running at €40m to date.

That is the cost for structural assessments conducted over the past year, precautionary measures such as scaffolding and fencing, repair works and fire safety upgrades carried out so far.

Education Minister Joe McHugh will update his ministerial colleagues on progress at today's Cabinet meeting.

The Cabinet briefing does not include a request for an injection of funds to cover the cost of the work this year, as sources said there was enough flexibility in the school building budget to cover the cost without affecting the normal programme.

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Apart from the usual contingencies included in the budget to cater for unforeseen circumstances, the sale price of DIT Kevin Street - for €60m above the guide - has reduced the requirement on the State for capital funding for the new TU Dublin campus in Grangegorman.

Some 40 schools, all built by the Co Tyrone-based contractor Western Building Systems (WBS), are involved in the remediation programme.

The Department of Education ordered structural safety assessments after concerns arose in the course of a separate programme of fire safety checks at a number of WBS-built schools.

The department said "significant structural issues" came to light at Ardgillan Community College, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, during fire safety remediation work last autumn.

A section of Ardgillan Community College remains closed while a plan is developed to allow its re-opening.

Of the 22 schools where precautionary measures were put in place last year, remediation work has been completed in 14, and will begin in the other eight in the new year.

In the other 17 schools, which did not require initial precautionary measures, detailed structural investigations carried out over the summer threw up a range of deficiencies that require work, which will be addressed.

The department has initiated a number of legal cases in the High Court against WBS, which says it will "vigorously contest" the actions. The company also announced it will legally pursue the department for outstanding payments relating to 10 schools previously certified by department-appointed inspectors.

WBS has consistently maintained that each of 42 schools assessed by the department last autumn was "previously certified for completion as being free from defects and suitable for use by the department and its employed professionals".

Irish Independent

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