THE demolition of a former village school will be “emotional”, a community leader has said after plans to sell it off for affordable housing were approved.
Wrexham Council’s executive board met yesterday (Tuesday, 9 February) to discuss proposals for the future of the Ysgol Pontfadog site in the Ceiriog Valley.
The primary school, which served the area for more than a century, closed its doors for the final time in July 2019 amid dwindling pupil numbers.
The decision to close it was made by members of the local authority’s ruling independent/Conservative administration, despite strong opposition from residents.
However, senior councillors pledged to give the community a say on how the land should be used in future, with a report recommending selling it to a social landlord to build houses to rent to local people as the best option.
Cllr Trevor Bates, who represents the Ceiriog Valley, welcomed the regeneration of the site, but asked for historic features of the school to be preserved as he said villagers would be sad to see the building go.
Speaking at the virtual meeting, he said: “I’m pleased to see that a local lettings policy will be observed by the council on this site in future. However, there’s one or two things we must remember.
“That old site has stood there for 112 years, it was built in 1908 and still means a great deal to those who were educated there and took their children to be educated there.
“Some can recall that several generations of their family were educated at that school so the inevitable demolition of the old building will be quite an emotional experience, to say the least.
“In addition to a local lettings policy, I ask that as this project moves forward that we rescue a few features from the old building.”
The executive board agreed that items such as the school bell and a commemorative stone put in place when it was first built should be kept.
Cllr Bates suggested they should be used as part of a memorial to remind people of the school.
Members also approved allowing the authority’s chief officer for housing and economy to negotiate and conclude the terms of the sale.
Council leader Mark Pritchard hailed the move as a positive development for the area.
He said: “We made the decision at this executive board to close the Pontfadog School.
“At that meeting, the local member Trevor Bates asked the question to me in my capacity as chair if we would work with him and the community council to find a use for the site.
“We did give our commitment and that’s why this recommendation is before you here this morning.
“What came back loud and clear was the community wanted homes for local people.
“I think this is a fantastic story that we as the executive board have listened to the local community.”
The news has also been welcomed by members of Glyntraian Community Council, who commissioned an independent feasibility study to be carried out into the site’s future.
It saw a survey sent to all 323 homes in the community, with residents responding that housing would provide the highest benefit to the area.
Chairman Graham Barrow said: “We now look forward to working closely with whichever registered social landlord acquires the site.
“Our expectation is the developers will consult widely with local residents.
“In so doing, we anticipate that they will put forward a scheme the village can be proud of and crucially, one that preserves key heritage elements of the historic old school building.”