Expansion of an Ystrad Mynach special needs school could still be given the go ahead despite objections to the loss of green space and the pitch used by a rugby club.
Caerphilly County Borough Council wants to create a new pitch at Sue Noake Leisure Centre in Ystrad Mynach.
The new pitch will replace one that looks set to be lost at Penallta RFC when the council expands nearby Trinity Fields School, which is for pupils with additional learning needs.
The school expansion plans have not yet been given the go-ahead, but look likely to be passed after they were backed by the council’s education scrutiny committee last year, and once again at a meeting on March 22.
It would boost the number of places at the school by 80.
A statutory notice, which is the final consultation stage, was issued between January 11 and February 7.
Labour’s Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David wrote to the scrutiny committee outlining his concerns that residents had not had their concerns listened to and raised questions over the issue of leaking sewage from a manhole at the site of the planned pitch at Sue Noake.
Mr David wrote: “I contacted Welsh Water about the sewerage and potential contamination issue and I have ensured that the club have direct access to a contact in Welsh Water.
“Welsh Water told me that investigations are ongoing and I am yet to hear, directly from them, the complete outcome of those investigations.
“Until the outcome of these investigations are reported on the record, it is important that members continue to raise questions about this matter, including whether the leakage problem could be recurring. I do not believe we are at a point at which this matter is definitively resolved.
“The club and the community also have concerns about potential long term pollution of the playing area at Sue Noake. I understand that this is an issue for Public Health Wales to address and I am in the process of seeking information from them regarding remediation requirements and safety of the playing surface. The council have committed to replacing the playing surface if necessary and I would like that to be placed on the record in committee.”
He added: “I am distressed that the way in which this process has progressed has caused so much division and discontent in the community of Ystrad Mynach. The council must take seriously the questions and concerns raised by local residents. Notwithstanding the core duty to public accountability, there is also a very real danger that this whole process will be subject to significant legal challenge if this is not addressed.
“The views of the community need to be central to the development of the business case for this proposal and cannot be seen as ancillary to it.”
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Despite objections the education scrutiny committee voted for the proposals.
A final decision will be made by the council’s cabinet on April 7.
Concerns have also been raised by Caerphilly’s Plaid Cymru group.
Its leader Cllr Colin Mann said: “I totally support better facilities for the increasing numbers of children who attend the school. I do, however, wonder, if the full impact of the proposal on the community has been properly taken into consideration.
“Several rugby and soccer pitches, plus a cricket field, were lost when Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr was developed. I am not aware that the cricket field has ever been replaced. We have the very valuable all-weather facilities at the Centre of Sporting Excellence but the centre has obligations to professional teams which restricts use by the local community.
“In addition, there appears to be only one rugby pitch in Ystrad Mynach park that is playable most of the time. The ‘bottom’ field is often either waterlogged or actually under water.”
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Ward member for Ystrad Mynach, Cllr Martyn James, said: “I support providing proper facilities to our disadvantaged young people. But this cannot be done by depriving the wider community of facilities that they have enjoyed for many years and should be able to continue to do so.
“Once green space has been lost it can’t be replaced. The school scheme would reduce the amount of open space for people, something we are told by government is crucial for people’s mental health as well as physical wellbeing. There is also a fear that if this development goes ahead it won’t be the last on this land.”
Fellow ward councillor Alan Angel said that many in the community don’t feel they are being listened to.
“The council has offered to create an alternative site at the Sue Noake Leisure Centre, land which has been flooded by sewage,” he said.
“No one should expect people to play on what appears to be unsuitable land and I’m aware that many parents have told the Penallta club that they are concerned about their children being asked to play on that site.”
Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
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