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Proposed Cwm Coke Works development raises more questions about education locally

RCT N

RCT Council's development control committee meets on Thursday to discuss the planning application for development of the former Cwm Coke Works and colliery site. The application, which includes around 851 houses, will be of particular interest to residents in light of the planned changes to the catchment areas for Y Pant and Bryncelynnog schools.
Permission at this stage is in outline form only, the developers are seeking consent to carry out the preparatory works including demolition of existing structures and access routes. If permission is granted they need to come back to the Council for approval of the detailed plans.
The proposals were central to discussions around the secondary school catchment area changes as objectors argue that extra houses in the area will mean that there will be no surplus places at Bryncelynnog in a few years. The Labour Cabinet approved a realignment of the catchment area for pupils in Cross Inn and Penygawsi so that children there will no longer be eligible to attend Y Pant but will instead fall into the catchment area of Bryncelynnog. The reasoning is that whilst Y Pant is at full capacity Bryncelynnog has surplus places.
The rather disturbing response from the Director of education to questions about future capacity was that they could simply realign the catchment areas on the other side of the area. This would presumably mean children from Llantwit Fardre and Church Village would switch from Bryncelynnog to Pontypridd High or Hawthorn.
Where would this stop? There are surplus places at Tonyrefail, could we see Llantrisant pupils going there in future?
The outline planning application for the Cwm site also includes a Primary school, suggesting there is an expectation of having more children in the area, although there is no mention of any money to extend the Secondary school. This despite the Director of Education having stated in a recent scrutiny call-in meeting that the Education Department would not back any planning application on the site which did not provide for a new Primary school and towards the costs of Secondary expansion.
The report says that the Education Department "have raised no objection to the proposed development on the basis that the proposed primary school come forward at a time that will meet the needs of the residents."
This in itself seems a somewhat vague statement - what will be the trigger point for building a new school? How many children have to be on the site? How will that then affect other schools in the area? Will it be English or Welsh medium? Yet again more questions than answers.
A previous application for the site was rejected in 2007 with the Assembly Inspector rejecting an appeal. The reason given was that the application was solely residential and the Inspector considered the site should be given over to mixed development. The Officer's report recognises that once again this new application is for almost exclusively housing, but argues that it is "driven by the requirement to keep the site viable in the current economic climate, which was not a consideration under the earlier application but is now regarded as central to the successful delivery of this site."
The developers also fail to provide the 20% 'affordable housing' that is required, but as so often seems to be the case they counter this in an argument accepted by planning officers by stating that "the site is financially incapable of delivering the level of affordable housing that would normally be expected."
Karen Robers

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