A SCHOOL expansion scheme in Bridgwater has been delayed after workers found a toxic substance in a disused swimming pool.

Somerset County Council is looking to expand Bridgwater College Academy to bring its capacity up to 1,200 pupils.

The council has had to increase the budget of the scheme after contaminated materials were found on the site which had not appeared on the original survey.

All harmful waste has been removed and there is no risk to future pupils, the council insisted.

Phil Curd, the council’s strategic manager for access and additional learning need, confirmed the delays in a report published on the council’s website.

He said the costs of the academy scheme had increased because of a need to raise the level of the new building by 750mm and a delayed start on site.

He said: “We also had to remove toxic materials which were found in the swimming pool.

“Surveys could not pick this up as a building had to be demolished that had been placed above it.”

The pool in question had been built over as part of previous development on the site – meaning current pupils have not been exposed to the material in question.

The council confirmed the toxic substance was coal tar, but said all the harmful elements had now been removed by a specialist contractor.

A spokesman said: “Previous projects on the site had deposited waste material in the disused pool in preparation for a new structure being built on top of it.

“In the construction of the new school building, some of this material has had to be removed by licensed contractors.

“There has, obviously, been no risk of harm to anyone at any stage, nor is there any future risk.”

Two other school building projects – one in Bridgwater, one in Somerton – are also over-budget as a result of delays in the early phases of construction.

The Bridgwater scheme – building a new special school on Bower Lane, near the community hospital – was given the go-ahead formally in March.

Mr Curd said the whole site had needed to be raised by one metre, with the creation of a new acoustic bund – a barrier to reduce the effects of noise – near the M5, and sinking electricity cables underground, also driving up the cost.

Work has also been required on the first phase of a new spine road, which will eventually connect the A39 Bath Road with the A372 Westonzoyland Road as part of a new housing development near the school site.

The Somerton scheme has been affected by archaeological findings.

He said: “The lessons we have learnt have been considered, with changes being made to existing and future schemes in order to mitigate against the potential for future budget increases.”

The additional funding for the three schools will come from within the council’s existing capital programme. 

The council has not confirmed how much additional money will be needed.