Ipswich: Academy is approved despite fire safety fears over lack of sprinklers

IPSWICH: Work to build a new school for Ipswich Academy next to the Gainsborough Sports Centre is due to start in the summer, it can be revealed.

Planning permission was given for the new academy buildings by the county council – but only in the teeth of concerns about fire safety.

The new building will not have a sprinkler system – partly because of fears that mischievous students could set it off maliciously, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to valuable equipment.

Members of the county’s development control committee were concerned that no sprinkler system was included in the designs of the new school. However the council’s development manager David Palk said the design had been studied by the county’s fire authorities and they were confident it would be safe.

That did not satisfy Tory councillor Peter Beer, who said: “The Titanic was built to the highest possible standards and we know what happened to that!”

Steve Bolingbroke from academy sponsors the Learning Schools Trust told the meeting that modern design standards meant any fire would be contained. Firefighters were satisfied that anyone inside the building could be evacuated quickly.

And he added: “Unfortunately one of the issues you face is that sprinkler systems get set off when they should not be and the cost of that is quite significant.”

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The committee eventually voted six to three in favour of the application, and speaking after the meeting Mr Bolingbroke said that should mean work should start during the summer – and the new building should be ready by September next year.

Talks with the borough council over the purchase of some of the land needed for the academy and for arrangements for using the sports facilities are still continuing – but Mr Bolingbroke was hopeful they would soon be completed.

The news was welcomed by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who has fought hard for the school to get government funding following the scrapping of the previous government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

He said: “This is fantastic news. I was worried about the talks between the borough and the county over the land issue, but it seems as if the borough has seen sense on this issue.”

Borough council leader David Ellesmere added: “We’re not there yet with the talks, but I’m optimistic it won’t take too long.”

n Will the new Academy be good for Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN

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