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Decision on Pontardawe super school to be made this week

A DECISION on controversial proposals for a Swansea Valley super school based in Pontardawe is set to be made by Neath Port Talbot council this week.

The plans would see primary schools at Alltwen, Llangiwg and Godre’rgraig closed and replaced by a new school for 630 full-time pupils, 140 part-time nursery age pupils, a special learning centre and public swimming pool, if given the go-ahead for the next stage by council bosses at a cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on April 19.

However they have been met with “overwhelming” backlash from teachers, parents and residents over the last year, with many arguing that the plans are unsuitable and damaging to both education and community life in the Swansea Valley.

The proposals have been the centre of controversy since the original plans for the site were legally challenged by a Welsh-medium education parents group named Rhieni Dros Addysg Gymraeg in 2022.

Following this challenge a judicial review found in favour of the case, which was brought forward because a Welsh Language Impact Assessment wasn’t consulted on at the same time as the school consultation.

After addressing the issues with the assessment, the councils new rainbow coalition put the plans back out for consultation for a second time, running from December 2022 until February 2023.

A council representative said: “The consultation took place between the 5th December 2022 and the 7th February 2023. It included holding a public meeting in Pontardawe and online, and meetings with various stakeholders including school governors, staff and parents. The consultation period was also extended for two weeks to allow for additional comments.

“Now that the consultation has been completed, the Joint meeting of the Cabinet and Education, Skills and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee will have the opportunity to consider the consultation report and offer views to the Cabinet before it decides its course of action. This meeting will take place at 2pm on the 19th April, prior to the meeting of Cabinet.”

A report published on the results of the public consultation have indicated that the majority of residents in the area seem to be against the plans for the new school, with 576 of a total 816 responses deemed to be against them, compared with 201 for, and 39 unsure.

Both Pontardawe Town Council and the governing bodies of Alltwen, Godre’r’graig and Llangiwg primary school have also rejected the plans for a second time this year.

Town councillor for Pontardawe, Dai Brain, said he hopes that after many months of discussions the local authority will now listen to the views of people in the area.

He said: “The majority of people in Pontardawe are against these plans and there is no doubt what the people in the community want. There is no further democratic process the public can use to oppose it, and at every possible stage in every possible way they have said no.

“I would like to urge cabinet members in Neath Port Talbot council to listen to the people of the Swansea Valley to avoid any feelings of disillusionment and mistrust in the democratic process in the future.”

Neath Port Talbot county borough council will now discuss the plans on April 19, before they decide whether or to progress the proposal to its next stage.

This will involve approving the publication of a proposal to go ahead with the new school, allowing 28 days for objections with a final decision in June/July 2023 or to abandon the proposal completely.