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Education Neath Port Talbot South Wales

Residents hold community gathering ahead of local school demolition

Swansea Valley School Closure Godre\'rgraig school gathering

RESIDENTS from a small village in the Swansea Valley have gathered for what they say is a show of solidarity ahead of plans to knock down their local school.

Plans to demolish Godre’rgraig Primary School were first announced by Neath Port Talbot Council in 2022, with the work to take the building down starting in April of 2024.

The demolition was confirmed after fears of a nearby landslip forced the school to close in 2019, with students relocating to temporary portable classrooms on the sports field adjoining Cwmtawe Community School.

It is a decision that has led to major backlash in the area with many locals raising questions over the level of risk posed at the site, as well as why the school is being knocked down before funding has been found to build a new one.

It also led to more than 100 residents from the village coming together for a community gathering this week, in what they say was a show of solidarity against the plans they think could rip the heart out of the community.

Speaking at the gathering, Leanne Vaughan Philipps who lives nearby said the community was distraught over the plans, saying: “We’re deeply saddened by the plans to demolish this school, as it is a building that means so much to the community.

“We think it’s wrong and we gathered outside with more than 110 people, to celebrate what we’ve done as a community, and to show that we won’t be giving up our fight even if the outcome is the school eventually being knocked down.

“We have questions over the future of the school, as well as the levels of risk that has led to the closure of the building, and we wanted to stand together to show we are still a community and we’re still working to get answers.”

Locals from the area have even formed an action group in order to save the  school in recent months, starting a petition with hundreds of signatures, to purchase the school from the local council to protect the building’s heritage for future generations.

They also handed in a complaint to the ombudsman seeking clarity on how the decision to close the school was made, along with how the level of risk from the tip was assessed.

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However, the plans to purchase the school was later ruled out by the local authority who said the site was not for sale due to “safety reasons” with the building set to be taken down imminently.

A spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council previously 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.”