On Oct 20th, the final decision to close three primary schools and to create a “ super school “ in Pontardawe will be taken by the Cabinet members of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.
Readers might think that this decision only affects those associated with the schools themselves, and those communities have raised the following serious concerns about the proposal;
- Worries about the negative impact on local communities;
- the potential damage to the environment of bussing and driving young children some distance away from their local area ,
- the possible inability of 3 years olds to access non-statutory nursery education
- worries about the impact on the Welsh Language
All have been raised by local councillors on behalf of their residents and replies received from Council officers
However, this proposal does not just affect the school communities themselves. It affects anyone who wishes in future to access Pontardawe retail park, the Leisure centre , Cwmtawe school and the proposed new swimming pool . Why? Because the following question which will impact on so many people throughout the Swansea valley has been unanswered; i.e. How will this new school be accessed?
I asked this question of officers on June 16th and received worryingly vague answers.
I pointed out that
- The current access road serves the retail park, the leisure centre and Cwmtawe Comprehensive School. The road is narrow and already very congested. The proposed new school would involve another 700 young children and their parents using the road to access the school.
- The road is a cul-de-sac .There is only one way in and out.
- The road is bounded on one side by a river and a sheltered housing complex and by a steep sided valley and canal on the other side; How can it be made wider and safer?
The replies I received were that it would be the contractors’ problem to sort out this issue and that they would be given (to quote officers )a “blank piece of paper”
And how would this be paid for?
The rules state that the £22m earmarked for the school can only be spent on the school build itself. When l pressed officers on this point I received the worrying answer that( quote) “those areas that were ineligible from 21st century funding would be picked up by the Local Authority.
I am so worried about the implications for all NPTCBC tax payers that I have decided to speak out now before the debate on October 20th
Whether or not people feel that a new “super” primary school for Pontardawe is a good idea or not, this uncertainty over the road access and the implications of the supposedly blank cheque that will presumably need issuing in order to make this access road safe affects all NPTCBC tax payers. Perhaps they should lobby their elected representatives immediately asking them to account for how tax payers’ money is proposed to be spent before the vote is taken ”.
And finally, the Council is currently running a “ Let’s talk “ event inviting residents to communicate with them about local issues. There has been a poor response locally to the invitation.
I would respectfully suggest that “ Let’s listen “ would have been more effective .
The residents of the Swansea valley need their confidence in their council restoring.
Wednesday ,October 20th is a chance for the Cabinet members who will make this final decision to do just that and prove that they are indeed listening to those who elected them,
Cllr Linet Purcell
Plaid Cymru Councillor for Pontardawe