Row erupts over lack of sprinklers in Thornwell School, Chepstow
11:40am Friday 2nd August 2013 in News
A ROW over the safety of children at a Chepstow school erupted at a Monmouthshire council meeting.
And despite passionate calls for a sprinkler system to be installed in the old, as well as the new, part of the Thornwell School, the motion was defeated.
Thornwell councillor Armand Watts urged full installation after the planning committee gave the go-ahead for an extension to the building earlier this month.
But councillors rejected extending the sprinkler system.
Cllr Watts said: “It should not have come to this, where an elected member has to stand before this council pleading to ensure that a sprinkler system is installed throughout the school.”
Cllr Liz Hacket Pain, cabinet member for education, said putting a sprinkler system in the old building would mean children would have to be accommodated elsewhere and a decision cannot be made until the council has an engineer’s report and cost details.
Cllr Hacket Pain said the rebuild will be done in two phases, with work expected to be complete on the new building next summer.
A feeder tank for the sprinkler system will be installed in the new building and is large enough for the existing building.
“What we do not know is how much it would cost to put that sprinkler system in the existing building.
“We cannot change the budget without true costings of the work,” she said. Her response sparked a heated debate.
Cllr Roger Harris said it left him unclear as to when the sprinkler system would be installed.
Cllr Dimitri Batrouni asked if the council was ready to risk another arson attack on the school.
Cllr Geoff Burrows said the most important thing was to ensure that the fire alarm worked and children could get out.
Council leader Peter Fox added: “If we wanted to do this today, then where would the children be taught?”
Cllr Watts described it as “simply not on”, and said that as children had spent two years in demountable buildings, it would be acceptable for them to be there for a little while longer.
A recorded vote, called for by Cllr Watts, was held and lost by 19 votes to 13.
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