EXCLUSIVE: Video: Preferred bidder announced for Fenland schools regeneration schemes

PUBLISHED: 16:55 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:24 02 June 2010

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KIER Construction has been asked to undertake the £35million redevelopment of the Thomas Clarkson Community College in Wisbech. Cambridgeshire County Council has chosen investment group Equitix for phase one of the Fenland Buil

An aerial view of Thomas Clarkson Community College.

EXCLUSIVE by: JOHN ELWORTHY

KIER Construction has been asked to undertake the £35million redevelopment of the Thomas Clarkson Community College in Wisbech.

Cambridgeshire County Council has chosen investment group Equitix for phase one of the Fenland Building Schools for the Future Initiative and hope to move on-site and start work next July.

Meanwhile, the company that put the retractable roof on Wimbledon, Galliford Try, has been chosen for the £25million re-development of Neale Wade Community College, March.

The community entrance to the school.

Both schools will use temporary classrooms for up to two and a half years while work gets under way.

For BSF experts Equitix, who will be confirmed by Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet on Tuesday as the preferred bidder, it could pave the way for up to £500million worth of BSF projects in the county over the next 15-20 years.

They are expected to win the next phase of the Fenland project - to re build the Cromwell Community College at Chatteris, Meadowgate School, Wisbech, the Fenland Junction Pupil Referral Unit, and Sir Harry Smith Community College, Whittlesey.

After that other projects will be developed for schools across Cambridgeshire.

The heart of the new school, the Eden Space.

Kevin Manley, BSF project consultant, said of the Wisbech scheme: "At the moment the school doesn't have what you might describe as a heart. In future they will have.

"One of the things Maureen Strudwick, the head, was looking for was an Eden effect, large, open space, with plants."

Tim Hitch, Principal of Neale-Wade, said the most rewarding aspect of the scheme was the fact that architects had consulted fully throughout with both staff, students and parents and the results were impressive and took on board many of the issues raised.

"The new hall, for performing arts, will, for instance, give the whole community of March a new focus and new directions," he said.

thomas clarkson head maureen strudwick

Early work is expected to start at Easter and builders expect to move onto both sites fully by the summer holidays.

"We're asking for the temporary classrooms to be of a quality that reflects the new learning spaces in the new school," he said.

Mr Manley said the new March campus would ensure young people had vocational choices, too, with areas set aside for bricklaying, construction, catering, hair care and electrical work.

Andrew Field, head of IT at Neale Wade, said he hoped the new school would "innovate on top of what we've already done".

He described the BSF opportunities as offering "a transformation of learning" and although academic results were important he felt the stimulus afforded by the new school would see students' confidence build and improve.

Equitix has been at the forefront of PFI initiatives in recent years and has raised finance not only for schools but also to build new hospitals, airfields and even race courses.

Councillor Martin Curtis, county council Cabinet member for children, said: "This is a significant milestone in the development of Cambridgeshire's BSF project. It will mean significant improvements to Cambridgeshire's secondary schools - starting with those in the Fenland area."

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