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School project cost more than doubles to nearly £97m

28 Jun 2024 3 minute read
Cardiff Council has proposed a land exchange that could pave the way for the expansion of Cathays High School. Photo via Google

Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter

A high school project that has split opinion over the potential demolition of a historic velodrome has more than doubled in cost.

The cost of delivering a new Cathays High School was estimated to be £38.8m, according to a Welsh Government report published in 2017.

However, a Cardiff Council report that was presented to the local authority’s children and young people scrutiny committee in May this year shows the total capital cost for the project is £96.9m.

Plans to increase the number of places at Cathays High School and replace the current building with a new one were approved in 2021.

Maindy Velodrome

For years, some residents have been campaigning against the plans in their current form as they would mean the loss of the nearby Maindy Velodrome.

A freedom of information (FOI) request made by a member of Save Maindy Velodrome asked for a breakdown of the £96.9m and an explanation as to how it had been calculated.

Cardiff Council responded saying the information relating to the breakdown of the total sum would influence or prejudice future tenders for the project.

It did add though that the sum includes an allowance for a potential acquisition of a new site.

Cardiff Council confirmed earlier this year that it is engaging with the UK Government’s property unit over the future of the offices on Crown Way in Gabalfa.

Campaigners have in the past urged the council to consider the site as an alternative.

New-build home

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “The local authority is continuing to look at options for the creation of a new-build home for Cathays High School, creating a long-term solution to meet future demand for places at the school, while at the same time replacing the current school buildings with a modern learning environment and providing facilities for the pupils and the local community.

“To ensure best value for money to the taxpayer, we cannot discuss anything that is commercially sensitive, and any commercial discussions taking place on any property deal, until a decision is made.

“Disclosure of this information would prejudice the commercial interests of Cardiff Council and the third parties it relates to.

“This is because information pertaining to cost breakdown of a new build school would influence or prejudice future tenders for the project. This would unduly influence tender prices, to the detriment of seeking maximum value for money.”

Maindy Park, where Maindy Velodrome is situated, is held in trust.

Cardiff Council is the sole trustee of Maindy Park Trust and it set up an independent advisory committee in 2022 to manage its conflict of interest in that position and in its role as the local education authority.

In the following year, the independent advisory committee recommended that the council’s cabinet should approve a swap that would see land at Maindy Park exchanged for land at Caedelyn Park in Rhiwbina.

Cardiff Council has applied to the Charity Commission for permission to carry out the land swap. The move would allow the council to go ahead with plans to build the school and demolish Maindy Velodrome.

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