COUNCILLORS have called for a delayed rebuild of Chepstow School to be brought forward amid fears the town could be ‘left behind’.

Monmouthsire CountyCouncil agreed to push Chepstow into the third phase of its 21st Century Schools programme, instead of developing it alongside a new Abergavenny school in the second phase.

Uncertainty around funding and the impact of Severn Bridge tolls being removed were the reasons given by the administration in October 2017.

Extra grant funding has now been made available by the Welsh Government for school projects, prompting calls for the council to reconsider its stance on Chepstow.

A motion tabled by Councillor Dimitri Batrouni, leader of the council’s Labour group, was debated at full council on March 7.

“The demographics in the south of the county have changed drastically. We’re still slightly uncertain, but we are further down the road and have a greater perspective,” said Cllr Batrouni, a former Chepstow School pupil.

Free Press Series: Councillor Dimitri BatrouniCouncillor Dimitri Batrouni

“The terms of which the decision was made not to proceed with Chepstow have changed so it’s appropriate to raise this to make sure Chepstow is not left behind. This is a matter of parity.”

But the motion, which sees the Labour group calling on the Tory administration to bring Chepstow back into the fold, was deemed overtly political by council leader Peter Fox.

“We take a whole council approach to delivering new schools, and key members of your group have been a fundamental part of that,” said Cllr Fox.

Free Press Series: New build schools have already been completed in Caldicot and MonmouthNew build schools have already been completed in Caldicot and Monmouth

“The administration has been totally supportive of a four-school strategy in Monmouthshire – without the political bias you’re trying to inject into it.

“I don’t think this is something we should be playing political games with.”

Councillor Richard John proposed an amended motion which removed any mention of political parties but still urged Chepstow School to be rebuilt as soon as possible – a motion which was carried.

But the cabinet member for children and young people said ‘clear evidence’ influenced the council’s decision to defer Chepstow, with the town’s population continuing to grow.

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“We would have failed as local representatives if we were to build a school tomorrow only for it to be too small in 10 years’ time,” he added.

Cllr John welcomed Welsh Government’s increase in funding to 65 per cent but added that it still fell short of the 70/30 funding split sought by the Welsh Local Government Association.

Conservative councillor Paul Pavia said it was ‘vitally’ important to keep Chepstow on the council’s agenda after a challenging year.

Teachers went on strike in April 2018 over leadership concerns at the school, with head teacher Claire Price leaving her post in August.

“There is a parental perception that the school is on a downward spiral and we’re not doing enough to mitigate that,” said Cllr Pavia.