Majority of Councillors Back £9.1m Special School Plans near Newtown
A MAJORITY of councillors have backed plans to build a £9.1 million special school near Newtown.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Planning committee on Thursday, January 11, councillors discussed a plan to build a new special school at land next the Grade II listed Brynllywarch Hall on the outskirts of Kerry.
In May last year. the council lodged the application with itself for a replacement school with 64 places, ancillary buildings, a MUGA sports surface, landscaping, and associated works.
Then in June, it emerged that the Welsh Government had been asked to “call in” the application and take over the decision making process.
This could see planning inspectors at PEDW (Planning Environment Department Wales) produce a recommendation on the scheme which would then beannounced by the Welsh Government Climate Change Minister Julie James MS.
There have been objections made against the scheme which includes one by Kerry Community Council.
At the meeting the Chairman of Kerry council, Cllr David Jones spoke against the proposal.
Cllr Jones said: “Since this application came to our attention nearly a year ago, we have tried to speak to as many residents as possible and have held a public meeting on June 5.
“Support in the area for this scheme to move the site is virtually zero.
“We are happy enough with the school – but why move it onto a greenfield site?”
He pointed out that Brynllywarch Hall is not “obtrusive,” but the new site could be seen and that developing “brownfield sites” should be considered before building on green fields.
Cllr Jones said: “Why hasn’t Brynllywarch Hall been incorporated in the plans – it’s a very fine building.
“I don’t accept the argument that this building is redundant and cannot be made suitable, it doesn’t wash with me or the people of Kerry.”
Planning agent Dylan Green of Asbri explained to the committee why Brynllywarch Hall is unsuitable to be the home of a modern school.
Mr Green said: “The school buildings are in a very poor condition; temporary accommodation has been provided in order to vacate part of the original building which is no longer fit for purpose.
“There are significant health and safety and safeguarding issues.”
“The stark reality is that this school can’t operate and is unable to provide an appropriate environment for its vulnerable pupils.
At the end of his lengthy presentation on the scheme, Senior Planning Officer Richard Edwards recommended approving the proposal.
Cllr Angela Davies said: “I am a bit concerned about what will happen to it (Brynllywarch Hall) whether it’s sold or re-purposed.
“Can have assurance it won’t be left to go to disrepair.”
Planning Professional Lead Officer Peter Morris said that the council would still be responsible for “looking after” Brynllywarch Hall.
Mr Morris stressed the future of the historic building needs to be “separated” from deciding the application as it isn’t a planning concern.
Cllr Gareth Pugh said: “I was disappointed to hear that because it’s a Grade II listed building that it’s not practical to renovate and keep the heritage of the existing school.
“I do believe that anything is possible, but it just comes down to the cost.”
He added that he knew of applications that had been refused permission on the ground of visual impact when they had less impact than the site in for the new school.
Cllr Pugh said: “This really concerns me so I’m struggling to see that this proposal is robust and complies with Welsh Government policies therefore I will not be supporting it.”
As the discussion progressed Cllr Huw Williams proposed the application go to a vote and supported the office recommendation.
Councillors went on to vote to support officer recommendation with 11 votes for, three against and one abstention.
All eyes will now turn towards Cardiff to wait and see whether the Welsh Government will “call in” the application.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This call-in request is under active consideration and a decision will issue in due course.”
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