Delivering a mass message: Cllr Rob James

THE planning application for a new school on Llanerch Field is drawing a large number of comments and objections, many aimed at the potential hazard of a gigantic sewage tank beneath the field upon which a new 420 place Welsh primary school and 60 place nursery may be built on land South of Heol Nant y Felin in Llanelli.

Residents and local councillors have made their views clear and the majority appear to be objecting to the plans via the county council’s planning portal

County Councillor Rob James who represents the ward has hand delivered over 700 hand written objections to the application (S/37111) to Ty Elwyn on Wednesday (May 23). He says that the council are now in the process of scanning all of the objections into the system. There is also a petition with over 2,000 signatures opposing the building of the school on Llanerch field.

Cllr James said: “I am expecting the application to go before Planning Committee next month and will be requesting a site visit. There has been a call-in request to the Welsh Government. They are unable to look at the matter, until a date has been set by the Council for the application to be considered by Planning Committee. Once the date has been set, Welsh Government officials will consider whether to call in the application or not.”

Speaking to Llanelli Online today Cllr James said:

“I sincerely hope that Welsh Government consider calling in this application, as the planning application submitted may not comply with the sustainable development principles with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and the Chapter 8 of Planning Policy Wales guidance issued by the Welsh Government.

“As the area being considered does not have an adopted development plan within the Council’s own Local Development Plan, I understand there is a presumption in favour of proposals in accordance with the key principles and key policy objectives of sustainable development in the planning system.

“It is my view that the Council have not taken a long term perspective when considering this proposal. According the figures obtained from Carmarthenshire Council, last year it was stated that there were 589 surplus spaces in welsh medium and dual-stream primary schools in the Llanelli constituency.

“Due to the size constraints of Llanerch Recreational Ground, the planned build would be classified as a confined site and falls shy of the Building Bulletin 103 criteria range for total site area for a single school development. Therefore, is the Council taking a long term perspective when considering this proposal, if the site is too small by Welsh Government standards?

“With the size constraints of the land and the surplus spaces in Llanelli, the Council need to be considering the future need for welsh medium education provision and not the short term.”

Cllr Shahana Najmi has also commented on the application: She wrote:

“I’d like to speak to oppose the application. I fully support the need for a new school , however I have concerns that the proposed site will deprive the community of much needed green space and will result in the loss of playing fields and football pitches that are widely used by the public. this will impact on the emotional and physical health and well being of the local community. the site is/was currently designated as recreational ground within the councils LDP. it is stipulated in the councils policies that this area is recreational ground and that they are going against their own policy and therefore the council should be abiding by policies that it has put in place.”

Cause for concern: The giant underground sewage tank

Robert Taylor of Carrick Avenue raised concerns regarding the sewage tank beneath the site.

His concerns include information contained in the pre-planning report from Hydrock which states that in the event of a system failure the sewage would come up through the manhole, located on the field. Mr Taylor points out that ‘an odour was also evident as detailed in 5.2.2 “some evidence of possible contamination was observed whilst undertaking the Ground Investigation’

Other concerns include the build up of sewer gas, which contain methane and hydrogen sulphide, both highly flammable and potentially explosive substances. Mr Taylor points out that ‘bad air can lead to the rapid development of unconsciousness and death’ and that ‘if foul sewage is left in any one place for any length of time, or is very slow moving, and the fact that this is a storage facility suggests an increased likelihood of this occurring’.

Mr Taylor adds that ‘the fact that the proposed development suggests siting a car park (with petroleum) over a foul drainage facility with potential toxic gases this seems to be ill-thought and a mixture for disaster. Surely these risks have been assessed, especially that this proposal will accommodate children’.

He concludes by pointing out that maintenance and repair work to the tanks is inevitable and will lead to a total shut down of the new school. Mr Taylor makes a call for a contamination assessment to take place before any decision is made.

Other contributors including Mr Graham Carlisle of CDN Planning Ltd  raise concerns regarding the sewage tank. In a consultee response he writes:

“Of great concern regarding these tanks, however, is the fact that they are highly sensitive to failure. It is known that 2 such tanks have had failures in recent times which have led to tremendous disruption until works could be undertaken to resolve the problem. The risk of sewage overflow as a result of failure is noted in the Flood Consequences Assessment, and the topography of the area means that any such failure is likely to invade the site of the proposed school, and potentially cause a significant and unpleasant disruption to school activities. It is our view that this represents a fundamental objection to the siting of the school on this land which should have been properly taken into account during the site selection process. New housing would not be placed so close to a major sewage facility and by the same token neither should a primary school.”

Village green: Llanerch field as it is today

The application will go before the planning committee and ultimately it will come dow to a show of hands. If councillors approve there is still the decision from the Welsh Assembly on whether the application should be called in and the ongoing legal battle over the village green status of the site, which could go to judicial review. Campaigners have stressed that they are not opposed to a new Welsh medium School but they are opposed to the chosen location and have concerns over the process, which determined the choice.

Both Nia Griffith MP and Lee Waters AM have called on the council to reconsider the choice and investigate other site options for the school.

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