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Uproar over Wiggly Path closure

Created on 20/07/2017 @ 05:48
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Residents have come out in force to lambast a decision to close off the ‘wiggly path’ that runs through Ardwyn Nursery & Infants School.

Earlier this month we announced that due to child safety concerns, the whole school campus would be closed off to the public, which meant the end of access to a path that has been used as a shortcut to town for more than 60 years.

It was said that: “Issues have been raised that members of the public use the Ardwyn School grounds, not only during out of school hours, but also during school hours, especially dog walkers.

“This creates a very real safeguarding issue, and is of significant concern to staff, parents, pupils, governors and wider members of the community.”

But the decision has been met by considerable anger from residents who believe the alternative of now using the Red Bank road is far too dangerous, especially for people pushing prams.

Prominent resident Dennis Duggan set the ball rolling with a Facebook post earlier this week criticizing the decision and it was supported by a number of people.

Linda Hilditch said: “The wiggly path has been used for over 60 years without any problems. Both the Croft path and the pavements are not suitable for mums with prams. It’s a shame to see part of Welshpool history close as well as the name of my old nursery school disappear.”

Rosie Fox added: “The thought of the wiggly path closing to the public horrifies me. It is a Welshpool institution and considering the school has been open some 50+ years with no incident speaks volumes.”

Many speculate that the path’s closure is part of a plan to sell the land off for development once the school is closed.

‪Darren Williams added: “As a user of this path since 1975 and members of my family a lot longer I think it’s terrible. Housing development? Shut the path now under the cover of protecting the children then when the school closes and a developer buys the land they won't have to worry about the path. I smell a rat!”

Ian Harrison, Chair of the Governors, defended the closure on social media by saying:

“The Governing Body decided that the path should be closed to improve child security and safety. It had been widely assumed that the path was public. However, it is not on the Powys designated list and is not a public footpath. Of course, once the school has moved to the new site I suspect the path can be opened up again.

“The Governing Body took professional advice from Council Officers regarding the status of the path. The school has frequently been criticised by Child Safety auditors regarding the security of the site. The change to Primary school status means that the age profile of the school increases and it simply got to the point where something had to be done to improve child safety. This was the most cost effective solution, especially given the need to secure the site for just two years. One of those regrettable decisions that had to be taken.”

Graham Breeze, County Councillor for the Llanerchyddol Ward, said the decision had been taken at the request of the school governors and staff but he will be discussing the situation with Gareth Jones, Interim Head of School Services for Powys County Council.

“The decision is purely in the interests of the safety of the pupils attending the school,” he said.  “Safeguarding of the children must come first and staff should not have to clean up broken bottles, used condoms and even drug related equipment from the campus.

But issues over rights of way access have been raised and clarification is required so I will be asking for an urgent meeting with Mr Jones.”

Ardwyn School will officially close at the end of the current term to be replaced by the new Welsh School to be named Ysgol Gymraeg Y Trallwng. All Welsh-only education will remain at the Ardwyn site on Red Bank until the new school is built at Maesydre in time for pupils to return from the 2018 summer holidays.

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