THE long running saga over whether a school would be built over an enormous sewage tank at Llanerch appears to be at an end. It has been announced that the council are now looking at other sites for the new school for Ysgol Dewi Sant.
Carmarthenshire Council have announced that the controversial rebuild of Ysgol Dewi Sant on recreational playing fields is no longer going ahead.
The contentious plans for the new £9.1 million primary school in Llanelli were on hold whilst the Welsh Government considered a call-in request.
Teachers and governors have been informed that it would not a good use of public resources to continue with the site previously selected and that the Council had already begun work on identifying a new site.
Carmarthenshire Council carried out a public consultation prior to submitting a planning application in April 2018. A design and access statement noted that Llanerch fields were felt to be the most appropriate of the nine sites considered.
Councillors, locals and even the town mayor at the time, Bill Thomas had campaigned to get the council to give more weight to a number of other sites, which they claimed had been ignored in favour of bulldozing an existing community green space under which lay a massive sewage tank.
Campaigners held meetings and began fund raisers to save the field under ‘village green’ status. The issue divided local people and prospective councillors during council elections. Councillor Rob James hung his hat on the door closest to the campaigners and was duly elected as the local county councillor. Hundreds of local people signed a petition objecting to the school being built over the large sewage tank.
Objections to the school being built on the site prompted accusations by some that the campaigners were anti Welsh language even though many were Welsh speakers and had sent their own children to Welsh language schools.
Some members of the campaign group top save Llanerch Field said that they had also been victims of hate campaigns during the process.
The issue also became one where local sporting organisations became embroiled and divided over what part the field would play in future sport in the community. The field had become a hot topic of discussion in the media and on social media.
Following the announcement we spoke to Nia Griffith MP. She said: “I am really worried about the latest announcement because Ysgol Dewi Sant deserves a new school and a new school as soon as possible. The problem was that way back when eight or nine sites were first suggested, the County council only looked at one. People pointed out right at that point, the difficulties of being right down on that flood plain so near to the river.
“There were all sorts of complications which NRW the environment agency have also been pointing out and they at the end of the day are the people who give you the good advice on this sort of thing. So really the County should have been looking and preparing plans for other areas. I have suggested at least two years ago, the Heol Goffa site where we already have a vacated building where the old training centre was. We know that Heol Goffa school would be moving to a brand new building and therefore that is a good site. It’s already got services in. It’s very close locally to the previous site and it’s well out of the floodplain up on that Hill.
“One of the first things Lee Waters and I did was to go and see the executive board member for education. We asked what other options were there. We asked why they dismissed every option except for one instead of getting some homework done on a couple of other sites so that there would have been plans ready to go with if it was decided that any one of those sites was not as suitable as perhaps as first thought. In fact, they have just completely ignored those pleas. We’ve been involved and clearly there’ve been lots of concerns raised by a lot of people but we do want this school built. What matters now is not to forget about it and think, Oh, let’s concentrate on other schools. What matters now is that we still concentrate on Ysgol Dewi Sant getting a new school.”
In a statement the Save Llanerch & Penygaer Recreational Playing Field Committee said: “We are most relieved that Carmarthenshire County Council have decided to look elsewhere for an appropriate site for the new Ysgol Dewi Sant.
“We have voiced our concerns regarding the suitability of the site from day 1 and it would now appear that these concerns were indeed well founded, which in turn have led to Welsh Government issuing a Stop Notice on 17th July 2019 in relation to the granting of planning permission on the site.
“It is regrettable that the reluctance to consider these issues properly has led to a significant delay in the provision of a much-needed school, and we hope that the new site identified will provide Ysgol Dewi Sant with a modern fit for purpose school befitting of its prestigious history in Welsh Medium Education.”
Cllr Rob James, local member for Lliedi and Opposition Leader, stated “A meeting has been held with Council Officers, Governors and staff to discuss the rebuild of Ysgol Dewi Sant, where those present were informed that the school would not be built on Llanerch field.
“It was stressed that the funding of the new school has not been lost and that work has already begun on identifying a suitable location for the school.
“A decision has now been made on the future of Ysgol Dewi Sant that provides clarity to pupils, parents, teachers, staff and residents.
“I appreciate the patience of all involved, as this has been a very sensitive matter.
“As a local member, and governor of Ysgol Dewi Sant, I will be working intensively with Council Officers, the school, pupils, parents and residents to ensure that we identify a suitable site for Ysgol Dewi Sant as soon as possible.
“It is my ambition that we can identify a new site and gain planning permission by the end of the year.
“Ysgol Dewi Sant has a tremendous reputation, not just in Llanelli, but across Wales as the first Welsh medium school to be run by a local authority. It is the desire of all involved to ensure that a 21st century school is build for the pupils and teaching staff that will enable the school to continue to thrive.”
The following statement was issued by the school: