Chapter Nine: Settlement Issues On The Site
9.1 In our meetings with parents, staff, pupils and unions, a range of concerns were raised about the state of the school buildings themselves and specifically in relation to settlement of parts of the building and evidence from playground areas of damage to the integrity of the ground surface.
9.2 The suggestions made to us were mixed – some referencing settlement and others raising concerns about bubbling of playground surfacing.
9.3 Most of the concerns regarding the impact of the construction of buildings on site were of a very general nature. They tended to relate to surprise that a building so new should require such levels of remedial work (and, it was claimed, of a repeat nature over successive summer holiday periods), concern that problems with the building were contributing to unpleasant odours in certain parts of the building, concern that providing the school through PFI initiatives (as was asserted) would inevitably lead to corners being cut in a range of ways and general disagreement in principle to the use of PFI contracts.
9.4 We should record our understanding that the project was not in fact a PFI but fully funded by North Lanarkshire Council. Further, there has been no suggestion that North Lanarkshire Council and Balfour Beatty are engaged in any kind of dispute with each other on matters relating to settlement arising from the construction contract entered into between them.
9.5 We comment elsewhere on the testing of the inside of the building but have not been able to establish a basis for considering that issues with construction could have contributed to concerns about unpleasant odours. From our understanding of the design of the building, it would not be the case that, even if the building were sinking, that was potentially putting pressure on and causing drains to break (resulting in unpleasant odours).
9.6 Although more to do with building design than settlement, issues of odours raised with us may be related to ventilation systems in the building. See paragraphs 5.46, 8.29 and 10.31 (bullet 4) and Recommendation 5(b).
9.7 In the time available, we have not been able to consider whether the amount of remedial work relating to settlement of the school site ought to be a matter of concern or is untypical of comparable sets of circumstances. Nor has it been possible to establish whether the school building is sinking. We can say that North Lanarkshire Council has not suggested to us that it is nor that they have made any concerns known to us about the level or quality of workmanship at this site. Independent surveyors report commissioned by the Council shows that the building has not moved or sunk, and recommended works in landscaped and paved areas where settlement has occurred were programmed for the summer break in advance of the review and have been completed.
9.8 Mindful of the remit of this review, we therefore focussed on two concerns expressly put to us which are associated with matters of the settlement of the building.
9.9 Firstly, was a suggestion that if the building on the campus is showing evidence of sinking to any significant extent, might that be creating a risk to the integrity of the methane membrane installed as a precautionary measure when the campus was built? In effect whether any such downward pressure gave rise to increased risk.
9.10 Secondly, was a suggestion that in certain playground areas, the ground was bubbling upwards and so a question was asked about whether such upward pressure was or could be caused by the methane membrane filling and pushing up through the unbuilt upon playground areas.
9.11 These questions are considered in paragraphs 8.17 to 8.19.