Posted: Thu 11th Apr 2024

Residents in Swansea Valley Village Continue Fight to Save Local School Despite Rejection

news.wales / newyddion.cymru

Residents in a Swansea valley village have said they won’t give up the fight to save their local primary school, despite a request to purchase the building being rejected.
Plans to demolish Godre’rgraig Primary School were announced by Neath Port Talbot Council in December, 2022, with the work expected to take place some time in April of 2024.
It came after safety issues were raised over a potential landslip from a nearby quarry spoil tip. The school was then closed in 2019, with students relocated to temporary portable classrooms on the sports field adjoining Cwmtawe Community School.
Both parents and residents have voiced concerns over the demolition of the school in the months since, saying that the removal of the site could rip the heart out of the small village.
The demolition was first announced after councillors ruled out two other options to re-open the school, including removing the quarry spoil tip or building a retaining structure above the school to catch any falling material.
It was also followed by a meeting of Neath Port Talbot Council in November, 2023, where they approved a series of new school project submissions to the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning funding programme – with one submission for a new English medium school worth £17 million, to replace Godre’rgraig Primary on Gnoll Road.
However, parents, governors and residents have said they fear that the move could result in the disbanding of the school altogether in the coming years if it is knocked down before any funding to build a replacement is found.
Labour opposition members in the council also said they believed there was still a lot of work to be done before construction on any new school could begin, adding that at such an early stage there was no guarantee the plans would be approved by the Welsh Government.
Residents formed an action group and have even started a petition with hundreds of signatures, to purchase the school from the local council in order to protect the building’s heritage for future generations. They have also handed in a complaint to the ombudsman seeking clarity on how the decision to close the school was made, as well as how the level of risk from the tip was assessed.
While a council spokesperson has said the site was not for sale due to “safety reasons” with the building set to be taken down imminently, residents who live nearby have said they won’t give up their fight to keep the building.
Local resident Rhys Williams said: “Without doubt we think the decision to demolish the school is premature, especially with no funding secured for a new one, and given the number of unanswered questions we have over the level of risk posed by the tip.
“The building means a huge amount to the local community and we would love to have it transferred over for us to use as a community moving forward, but there has been very little engagement.”
Leanne Vaughan Philipps added: “We very disappointed in the council’s response to our request. We’re following up with more queries but it seems as though they don’t want to carry on with conversations regarding the school.
“I don’t think that the council have considered the impact the closure would have on the area, and we want to understand how this decision has been made. It’s tragic and we’re so upset because we just feel we have no other recourse left.”
A spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council said: “We have received a request from a local resident to buy the site and we have confirmed that for safety reasons the site is not for sale.
“We are currently pursuing the works programme to secure the safe demolition of the building and construction of a structural bund to protect properties located opposite the school site. The works programme has been provided to local residents, local councillors and the community council.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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