Contentious plans to expand Trinity Fields School in Ystrad Mynach have been given the go-ahead by senior councillors.
As a result, Penallta RFC, which opposed the proposal, will lose one of the council-owned pitches it plays on.
Caerphilly Observer understands that local campaigners are likely to launch legal proceedings against Caerphilly County Borough Council over the lawfulness of the way the decision was made.
As part of the overall plans, Caerphilly County Borough Council will create a new rugby pitch for the club at Sue Noake Leisure Centre in Ystrad Mynach.
Residents, already angry at the potential loss of the pitch, are unhappy because of a long-standing problem with leaking sewage from a manhole at the site of the planned pitch at Sue Noake.
Welsh Water has been investigating the cause of the leaks and this has yet to be complete – leading to questions over the way the council has made its decision.
However, Richard Edmunds, the council’s corporate director for education, told a meeting of the authority’s cabinet on Wednesday, April 7 that work to identify and solve issues in the sewer are due to be completed imminently.
Hefin David, Senedd Member and Labour candidate for the Caerphilly constituency, wrote to Caerphilly Council’s cabinet ahead of its decision meeting and reminded them of the concerns regarding the proposals.
What is Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet?
A council’s cabinet is made up of councillors in charge of different policy areas – such as education, environment, local economy, etc – and a leader.
It is separate to the council’s corporate management structure, which is headed up by its chief executive and various directors. Cabinet is made up of councillors, who are elected and have the ultimate say.
Typically, cabinet members are councillors from the party with the most elected council members.
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet is made up of:
- Cllr Philippa Marsden (Ynysddu) – Leader
- Cllr Jamie Pritchard (Morgan Jones) – Deputy Leader; Infrastructure, Towns and Property
- Cllr Colin Gordon (Pontllanfraith) – Corporate services
- Cllr Eluned Stenner (New Tredegar) – Customer, Performance and Property Services
- Cllr Ross Whiting (Risca West) – Learning and Leisure
- Cllr Shayne Cook (Morgan Jones) – Social Care
- Cllr Lisa Phipps (Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen) – Housing
- Cllr Nigel George (Risca East) – Waste, Public Protection and Street Scene
- Cllr Andrew Whitcombe (Abercarn) – Sustainability, Planning and Fleet
Corporate management is made up of unelected employees of the council and has responsibility for day-to-day management of services, such as making sure the bins are collected. Corporate directors work with cabinet members to come up with policy which is then agreed upon by the cabinet.
Mr David had previously written to the council’s education scrutiny committee outlining his concerns that residents had not had their concerns listened to and raised questions over the issue of leaking sewage.
He wrote: “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.”
The £12.5 million expansion of Trinity Fields School, which is widely recognised for its excellence in supporting pupils with additional learning needs, will see an extra 80 places created.
Cllr Martyn James, who represents the Ystrad Mynach ward for Plaid Cymru, addressed the cabinet meeting of April 7 telling it the views of Penallta RFC.
These include concerns around changing facilities at the replacement pitch, and traffic and parking worries.
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The meeting also saw several other school developments green-lit.
Ysgol Gymraeg Cwm Gwyddon, in Cwmcarn, will now relocate to a new purpose-built building on the site of the old Cwmcarn High School. The scheme will cost £9.6million.
Cwmcarn High School closed in 2018 and was demolished in 2019.
The new school would accommodate 420 pupils plus 60 nursery places.
Rhianon Passmore, Senedd Member and Labour candidate for Islwyn, said: “Islwyn is a proud Welsh community that has a flourishing demand for Welsh medium education that sits alongside the need for English language education in our bilingual nation.
“Labour-run Caerphilly County Borough Council working with the Welsh Labour Government have made this investment possible.”
Other project which were approval were:
• £5.5m Centre for Vulnerable Learners – A proposal to adapt and refurbish an old grammar school building (former Pontllanfraith High School), to accommodate a new fit-for-purpose centre for vulnerable learners across the area.
• £4m Llancaeach Junior School and Llanfabon Infants School – Both schools will be merged via the expansion and refurbishment of the existing Llanfabon Infants site. The new Primary School will offer places for 275 pupils plus nursery.
• £9m Plasyfelin Primary School – To build a new and enlarged replacement school in the grounds of the existing school site in Caerphilly town. This will accommodate future projected demand within the area. The new school will provide 420 pupil places plus nursery.
All the projects, which will still have to go through the planning process, fall under the 21st Century Schools programme, which is jointly funded by the Welsh Government.
Following the meeting, Cllr Ross Whiting, the council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We have bold ambitions to provide every learner with the best life chances and we are committed to doing this through the provision of high quality teaching, learning and leadership across our school settings.”
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