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The ‘mudbath’ school: parents furious after rebuild chaos at school in Richmond

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 22/01/2018 ANNA DAVIS, Greg Wilford

a train on a steel track © Provided by Independent Print Limited Furious parents today said their children’s primary school is like a “mudbath” after building work overran.

The Russell School in Richmond was described as an “eyesore” full of “mounds of waste, muddy holes and half-demolished buildings”.

Work to rebuild it and move a special needs school onto the site began in July 2015 and was expected to be completed in a year.

But pupils did not move into new classrooms until last September, and parents say a list of problems that need to be rectified means that facilities still cannot be used and the outside space remains a mess.

a road with a building in the background: 23russellschool2201a.jpg © Provided by Independent Print Limited 23russellschool2201a.jpg

During the work, a wildlife garden opened by Sir David Attenborough, an orchard and a playground were ripped out and only mud and rubble remain.

Joan Middleton, 44, who sent her two sons to Russell School, said: “It’s a mudbath. Our kids haven’t had a play area for two years. I’m all for redeveloping the school but it’s a year overdue and they still haven’t got a landscaping contractor and still haven’t got a plan.

“I chose that school because it had the largest outdoor space in the borough and was beautiful.” Sally Chapman, whose son David, seven, is a pupil, set up a petition urging Richmond council to get the project finished. More than 700 people have signed it.

She said: “I am fed up of my son going into a building site. We have been abandoned, with no communication. We don’t know the plans for the outside.”

Sir David opened the wildlife garden in 2009. Claire McKenzie wrote on the petition: “It has been destroyed, ancient hedgerows have been damaged and trees felled. [It’s] heartbreaking.”

Russell School Parent-Teacher Association said: “We’ve had enough. It’s obvious the management of this project has gone badly wrong. We want the council to stop hiding behind spreadsheets.”

Richmond said contractor Lakehouse was responsible for building work and originally supposed to complete the landscaping, but the council removed the external work from its contract in spring last year.

Susan Chappell, cabinet member for schools, said: “I’m sorry the school hasn’t been completed in the time-scales we originally set out. Unfortunately, the contractor has not delivered to the high standards we require. We’re pushing for immediate action and remedial works.” She said plans for landscaping were awaiting approval.

Lakehouse said: “The internals have been completed. We have been instructed to undertake snagging work [rectifying remaining problems] when pupils are not in residence i.e. Easter break.”

It cited prizes it has won including the Civic Trust Award, RIBA Award and British Construction Award.

Strathmore special school moved onto The Russell School site, but the two remain separate institutions.

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