Posted: Fri 13th Oct 2023

Major Plans for New Catholic School in Merthyr Tydfil Set for Council Decision /
This article is old - Published: Friday, Oct 13th, 2023

Major plans for a new Catholic school in Merthyr Tydfil are set to be decided by councillors.
The application for the demolition of the current Bishop Hedley school (except the existing sports hall) and the construction of a new building are due to go before Merthyr Tydfil Council’s planning and development committee on Wednesday, October 18.
The council is looking to create a new all-through 3 to 16 school called Blessed Carlo Acutis to replace the existing St Aloysius RC Primary School, the Federation of St Illtyd’s RC, St Mary’s RC Primary School and Bishop Hedley School.
The proposed school would accommodate a primary school with 525 places, a nursery with  100 full-time equivalent places and a secondary school with 600 places.
The proposals also include sports facilities with the extension of the existing sports hall and new sports pitches and associated landscaping, access and engineering works with new vehicle access and parking and drop-off areas, a temporary staff car park, a construction compound, classrooms during construction and improvements to pedestrian access, as well as highway improvements to Galon Uchaf Road and Gwaunfarren Road.
Details of the development
The report said given the complex site levels, the northern part would accommodate the main development and is split into a primary wing to the north (two storeys), shared wing in the centre (three storeys) and a secondary wing to the south (part three and four-storey).
The shared space in the centre of the building would include a chapel, shared kitchen and community room.
The primary wing would be made up of nursery and primary classrooms and the secondary wing would be made up of classrooms and a dining hall.
A number of designated outdoor play areas would be provided to the north and east of the school building.
The southern part of the site would be used mainly for sports facilities and car parking. To the west of the proposed school building, a new drop-off parking area with 31 parking spaces and five disabled bays would be provided, along with a lay-by for two mini-buses.
This would be accessed from Galon Uchaf Road and would operate a one-way system.
The main car park located in the southern part of the site would accommodate 98 spaces, which includes three disabled bays, 14 electric vehicle spaces and seven spaces reserved for car share.
The main car park would have a drop-off area with links to the pedestrian underpass and drop-off lay-bys would be provided on either side of Gwaunfarren Road, which can accommodate a total of 27 cars.
In terms of cycling, there would be 28 spaces within a sheltered area close to the nursery wing and 28 spaces in a sheltered area near the secondary wing.
A further 56 cycle spaces would be provided in the southern part of the site, adjacent to the main car park.
Extensive planting would be introduced to provide a mixture of woodland areas, hedgerow planting, shrub planting, establish areas of wild flower grassland and planting which forms part of a sustainable drainage solution for the site, the report said.
To enable the phased development of the site, it is proposed that temporary classrooms would be introduced in a car park area while construction works take place. A temporary drop-off and pick-up area would be provided.
Following the completion of the development, the green open space would be restored to its former use and enhanced with wild flower planting, the planning report said.
Concerns raised in an objection
There was one objection to the application which said the temporary compound would include a new access/entrance on to Galon Uchaf
Road, which is fast and busy road and has no traffic calming measures and that the additional traffic raises highway safety concerns.
It also raised ground stability and water run-off concerns about Buttercup Field, which could destabilise the ground and affect properties in Billingham Cresent.
But the report said site investigations do not highlight any significant stability concerns that may otherwise prevent the use of the temporary car park and  it is not anticipated that the proposed temporary car park would give rise to significant stability concerns that may effect the neighbouring properties.
It also said appropriate drainage systems would need to be implemented to ensure any water run-off from the temporary car park is appropriately managed and the final drainage scheme would be agreed as part of a separate sustainable drainage application.
Other concerns included the potential impact on the trees and ecology within and surrounding Buttercup Field, the potential increase in noise and air pollution as a result of the temporary car park, and that the removal of knotweed could result in the loss of vegetation which helps to provide some security to the rear of adjacent properties.
The report also acknowledged that the development would have some impact on the grassland habitat area to the west of the school site to accommodate the temporary car park but this would be reinstated and improved after the removal of the car park and that the existing woodland/vegetation along the periphery of the grassland area would be retained.
The report also said air pollution and noise can be minimised through a construction management plan to minimise dust and construction hours.
It said the impact from the temporary car park would also be limited to
the construction phase and would be replaced by the new car park in the main school grounds.
It added that Japanese knotweed has been identified within the site, particularly in close proximity of the temporary car park and it is proposed for these areas to be treated to ensure the invasive species is eradicated.
Planning officers recommend approval
In recommending approval, council planning officers: “The principle of the development is acceptable and the proposal would make provision for a new and improved educational facility to serve the wider community.
“The development has been carefully designed to integrate well with the
surrounding area and appropriately addresses the constraints of the site.
“The impact on the highway network has been taken into consideration with appropriate parking provision to support the development, whilst encouraging more sustainable forms of travel.
“The landscaping scheme has been designed to help define different usable spaces around the school, whilst providing ecological enhancements.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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