PLANS to spend £350,000 clearing unexpected asbestos at two Monmouthshire schools would represent a “very minor overspend” in the wider redevelopment of both sites, a meeting has heard.

Asbestos has been unearthed at previously unreachable areas of Caldicot School and Monmouth Comprehensive during demolition works for the £90 million 21st Century Schools new-build scheme.

Mark Howcroft, assistant head of finance for Monmouthshire County Council, said the authority had expected to find the material given its common usage when the schools were first built.

Speaking to the strong communities select committee on Wednesday, he said: “Asbestos removal was built into the fabric [of demolition work] as a presumption.

“But appreciating these buildings were put up in the 1950s, there wouldn’t have been charts or plans to show every aspect of asbestos. It’s only when you start to take these buildings down that you can actually get access under the [concrete] slabs.”

The predicted £350,000 clean-up bill was referenced in a monitoring report outlining the council’s financial activity in the first two months, and expected spend, for the 2018/19 financial year.

Mr Howcroft said the matter of asbestos was taken seriously by the council and that there would be an inevitable cost attached to getting the material removed by a professional contractor.

He added: “Those two schools were a collective scheme of just over £90 million, an anticipated overspend of £350,000 is a very minor overspend in the overall project management.”

But Labour councillor Tony Easson challenged Mr Howcroft’s comments and asked for things to be “put into perspective”.

“You say it’s a small amount but that £350,000 could have helped in the way of providing free school meals for children,” added Cllr Easson.