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New school chaos as councillor says “I will object”

 
Created on 15/07/2021 @ 10:16

 

A £12 million project to build a new Welsh-speaking primary school in Welshpool could be plunged into chaos should a county councillor go through with his threat to lodge an objection tomorrow.

Cllr Phil Pritchard represents the area for the new Ysgol Gymraeg Y Trallwng and last night told Welshpool Town Council’s planning committee that “I don’t care if they lose the money, I don’t care if the school is never built” over his child safety concerns regarding the proposed re-directing of a public footpath alongside the school’s perimeter at the former Maesydre site.

In a fiery address, Cllr Pritchard said he had been “made out to be the villain” as it had been pointed out that a single objection could delay the project by 18 months, meaning that Powys County Council could lose 50% of its funding from the Welsh Government.

But he maintained that there was a better option for the footpath that didn’t run it alongside the 150-pupil school’s 2.4m high fence, which he fears will give unwanted close access to children.

He said that the Town Council had previously approved a ‘safer’ option for the footpath, stopping it at the old youth centre building, and had not had chance to discuss the new option now put forward by Powys County Council in agreement with the Open Spaces Society, who had originally objected to the path being blocked off.

Cllr Pritchard said he merely wanted a deferral so that this new route, which he is not in favour of, could be discussed.

Referring to the new route, Cllr Pritchard said: “Any Tom, Dick and Harry, and paedophile, can walk round that fence and chat to the kids. Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, and I told the county council that and I said quite bluntly that if that’s what they intended to do then I will oppose it.

“I was then told that if I oppose it, they reckon it will be an extra 18 months and probably lose the 21st Century funding.

“Folks, I will oppose it if that’s the case. And it’s no good saying ‘oh get on with it’. You have got to give it some thought to what the situation is with the children. 

“I told them I will object to safeguard the children of Welshpool. There is no reason on God’s earth for anybody to want to walk round there unless they have got an interest in the children from the school.

“We had previously agreed to stop it off at the youth centre. I want to make sure the committee is aware of the information that I have.”

He went on to explain to councillors that they have a duty to discuss the new route as it was different to their previous approved route, and their new response should be known to the county council. 

Town Mayor, Cllr Alison Davies, confirmed that “we had made the decision without having the right papers in front of us which is why we have them now and brought it back here after being made aware by Phil (Cllr Pritchard)”.

Cllr Pritchard then continued: “All of a sudden on social media I am attacked because I am creating a situation that will extend the building of the school by 18 months and it will probably lose the funding from the Welsh Government.

“Let me tell you folks, at county council, 90% of the members of that committee were on the side that I was talking about and all I was asking for was a deferment of two weeks so it could come back to the proper consultees and, what happened? The officers spoke to the committee and said if you do anything you will add one-and-a-half-years to the build and possibly lose the money. I don’t care if they lose the money, I don’t care if the school is never built. If there’s 1% risk that something is going to happen to those children, that’s what I care about and I feel very strong about it.”

Cllr Pritchard said he will hold a site visit today with officers from Powys County Council and “come what may, I will be putting in my objection the day after tomorrow (Friday)”.

Cllr Richard Church previously called for the project to start immediately and reiterated his stance last night.

“Phil’s prime concern is regarding safeguarding and preventing paedophiles or other people who might endanger the children. That’s a perfectly valid consideration.

“But as has been said, there will be a 2.4m-high fence around the perimeter, and has also been said this will not be a play area for the children (a car park).

“If you look at any other school they have similar fences around them and I don’t regard safeguarding issues being raised in other cases where fences such as this were put in, like the new Church in Wales primary school in Welshpool.

“What the expert on safeguarding from the county council has told us is that the children will be perfectly safe.”

He also pointed out that the current school’s site at Ardwyn has a low fence “about half-a-metre high” which presents a bigger safeguarding issue. 

“I am sorry that Phil feels he doesn’t care about the school not being built. The whole thing has become an absolute mess from the beginning to end. But it is important for us, and important for the county council, it is important for everybody to now put the children of this school first and get their school built.” 

Cllr Davies also pointed out: “You all know that of course it was delayed for many reasons and where we are now is that the children at this school are in classrooms with buckets in them to stop the water and they have a headteacher working out of a broom cupboard. It is awful.”

The school has been beset by problems since it was first proposed with a group of ex-pupils successfully having it listed so that the old Maesydre building would have to be incorporated into the new design, considerably inflating the budget as a result.

Last night, councillors agreed to defer the item for a fortnight so they have the chance to look at the new path proposal and to pass their comments on to Powys County Council. They have also agreed to hold a site meeting in the meantime.

 

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