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Campus is behind schedule & over budget – but Wiltshire Council pledge commitment to delivering project

Melksham Campus design

PLANS for the Melksham Community Campus have been revealed to be nearly two months behind schedule – but Wiltshire Council says they will make up the time and remain committed to delivering the project.

The news was announced at last week’s Melksham Area Board meeting by Wiltshire Council cabinet member for campuses John Thomson, who also disclosed that the council has a budget of £15.2million for the project, describing the project as ‘the most expensive campus in Wiltshire’. 

However, cllr Thomson revealed that there is a shortfall of £1.5million that the council hopes to correct by selling property assets.

Also at the meeting, a new version of the campus design, which has been changed from the last version presented in June, was previewed at the meeting . In the latest design, the sites of all the new facilities remain the same, but the new design has more car parking spaces, with a new car park proposed in front of the main campus building, next to the current Melksham House car park, and a new car park behind the site of the outdoor bowls club. Cllr Thomson said that the site would have 229 parking spaces.

It was also revealed that the two squash courts listed as part of the campus in October are no longer part of the plan. Cllr Thomson explained that the squash courts have been axed from the plans to make savings in the budget as there are plans to build a squash centre of excellence in Trowbridge.

There was also reassurance that the Blue Pool will remain open until the new campus is ready to be used.

Speaking at the meeting, cllr Thomson said,  “We’re not doing too bad on timescales, we’re slightly running two months late on the planning application process – but what we will do is start the procurement at the same time as the planning application goes in. As we’ve already achieved planning permission on the site for leisure facilities, the principle is established, this is merely a modification to the original application. So we will make time back up by doing the procurement at the same time.

“As soon as we have planning approval, we will come back here with an amended timeline for the construction of the campus.”

“We have £15.2million for building the campus. This is a figure we have to stay within, there is no money outside of this, so we have to deliver the project within this budget, that’s really important.

“At the moment I am £1.5million over the budgeted figure for the campus – but I explained to my fellow cabinet members that I am hoping that we will sell some of the assets like the library, to fill that gap. So at the moment the project is slightly over budget.

Melksham News met with cllr Thomson after the meeting to discuss the shortfall in the budget. Cllr Thomson said, “We have a high contingency in the budget of £2million because there are a lot of unknowns on the site, this would normally be around £1million on other projects. There is currently a debate as to whether we leave the contingency at 15% or take it down to 7.5% – which would be £1million.

“Wiltshire Council is committed to delivering this, so if we have a half million pound gap at the end of this project that will be filled by borrowing or some other funding. We are a billion pound council, we’re not totally bust!”

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