Covid-19 and Brexit uncertainty have played a part in increasing the cost of the expansion of a special needs school in Lewisham.  

Greenvale School in Catford is a mixed secondary school for pupils aged 11 to 19 who have significant learning difficulties, including those with an additional diagnosis of autism. 

A 2016 review found that Lewisham needed more special educational needs and disability (SEND) school places, while a high number of pupils were being sent out of borough. 

To help alleviate this, the mayor of Lewisham approved the expansion of the school in early 2018, along with the budget to pay for a contractor to carry out the works.  

“Unfortunately, the initial attempt to tender this contract was unsuccessful, as only one tender was submitted, which was unaffordable.  

“The tender exercise was therefore closed without a contract being awarded,” according to the report presented to mayor and cabinet on Wednesday (October 7). 

Now the estimated construction budget – the exact figure is yet to be finalised – has increased, though it is not publicly available as it is commercially sensitive and was discussed behind closed doors. 

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Presenting the report, which focused on the project’s progress and construction contract award, the cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Chris Barnham, said it’s “important” that the council meets the needs of SEND children inside the borough rather than sending them out of it.  

“Which obviously can be inconvenient for families and it’s expensive for the council’s hard-pressed budget,” he said.  

Cllr Barnham explained that the cost of project had increased for a number of reasons, including delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit uncertainty. 

“Because of delaying we’ve had to install temporary buildings on the existing site to enable the school to function.  

“And since the design phase there’s been an increase in the floor area of the new building and that’s because the initial estimates are generally based on generic Government guidance but the detailed design needs to reflect the specific requirements of the school.  

“It’s an excellent school and we really want to make sure they have the right building for their needs,” he said.  

According to the report specialist requirements around “ceilings and robust materials, challenging acoustic environments, bad ground conditions and BREEAM requirements” also added to the cost.  

“But officers have market tested the revised design and had a value-for-money assessment from a quantity surveyor on the project and both of those exercises indicate that the proposed cost is in line with current market rates,” Cllr Barnham said.  

Mayor and cabinet approved the report, along with awarding Geoffrey Osborne Limited the contract for stage two of the project, the construction phase.