Hartlepool school development in limbo after councillors and fire chief call for sprinklers to be installed

A headteacher says major rebuild plans for his school are in limbo after councillors and fire chiefs called for sprinklers to be installed.

Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 3:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 3:25 pm
Artist impression of English Martyrs School new building

Planning councillors unanimously supported the major redevelopment of English Martyrs.

But they added a condition to the planning permission saying sprinklers must be provided following previous serious fires to Hartlepool schools and concerns after London’s Grenfell tower disaster.

The nursery of Rift House Primary School suffered serious damage in an arson last May.

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The Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) which is financing the rebuild has not included sprinklers in the budget.

Headteacher Stephen Hammond said: “Obviously we are delighted that it was unanimously approved.” But he added: “We are still in limbo.

“We are the recipients of a project and the funders aren’t funding sprinklers at the moment.”

Sprinklers are mandatory in new school buildings in Scotland and Wales, but not in England.

The nursery of Rift House Primary School suffered serious damage in an arson last May.

Last year, the Department for Education began a consultation on new draft guidance which said building regulations no longer required their installation in schools.

Councillor Rob Cook, chair of the planning committee, said: “We are aware that there have been a number of fires in schools over the years.

“I know the argument always come down to cost but I always say how can you put a price on somebody’s life or somebody being injured?”

In a letter sent to the committee, chief fire officer of Cleveland Fire Authority Ian Hayton said: “Since 2002 schools and colleges within the Cleveland Fire Authority area have experienced a combined total of 126 fire incidents, many of them severe causing considerable disruption.”

In May last year, Hartlepool’s Rift House Primary School suffered considerable damage to its nursery after an arson.

And in 1998 Grange Primary School’s junior classrooms and hall had to be demolished after a fire.

Mr Hammond said the ESFA had not budgeted for sprinklers as Hartlepool council did not have a specific policy for them.

He added no other secondary school in Hartlepool has them.

Mr Hammond said: “The key thing for us is to get a school that’s safe for all our students and to provide quality 21st Century education and first rate resources. We’re still hopeful there will be resolution that will enable us to do both those things.”

nglish Martyrs is set to undergo a major rebuild after gaining the support of councillors.

Hartlepool’s planning committee was yesterday minded to approve the demolition of ageing buildings and a replacement building and playing pitches.

English Martyrs was a successful applicant in the second phase of the Government’s Priority Building Schools Programme.

It is one of five North East schools, along with High Tunstall College of Science, that will receive a share of £67m funding through the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Headteacher Stephen Hammond said of the current buildings: “To say they are tired is an understatement.

“It’s not fit for purpose. It is two schools that combined to form one.

“It was never intended for the numbers that we have at the moment.”

He said current facilities including the science labs were limiting pupils’ success.

He added: “It’s a detriment to their education. We haven’t got the resources or equipment that 21st Century education needs.”

Vice chair of the planning committee Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “I fully support it. I commend what the school is doing.”

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells said it was a good application and Coun Marjorie James said the development was “long overdue”.

Coun Shane Moore praised its range of new sports facilities.