PLANS for a replacement village school in the Vale of Glamorgan will involve chopping down huge trees to make more space for cars.
St Nicholas Church in Wales primary school will see its current main building demolished and a new £5-million larger school built further back.
Vale of Glamorgan council was given planning permission on Wednesday, April 27, for the replacement building, but the planning committee heard concerns on the loss of trees.
St Nicholas suffers from congestion at the start and end of the school day as parents drive to pick up or drop off their children. Previous plans to replace the school, with one twice the size, were turned down early last year due to fears the congestion would become worse.
Updated plans for a replacement school kept the current capacity for primary school places, 126 pupils, but added a new nursery provision of 24 part-time places. The building will also be set back about 41 metres from the road, with a new drop-off area and staff parking, to ease congestion.
Currently the school is split across two buildings, which are both considered not fit for purpose, in poor condition and too cramped. But the local community council has criticised the updated plans for a replacement building, as they include chopping down the two mature field maple trees and hedges at the front of the site, along School Lane.
Ian Perry, chair of the St Nicholas with Bonvilston community council, told the planning committee: “What happens with the traffic there is that residents report a 15-minute delay—and I’ve experienced it too—where the lane is totally blocked. That’s a problem now and the problem will potentially get worse.
“The Vale council has announced a nature emergency and yet wants to demolish two fine mature trees and remove the hedge to provide a waiting area outside the school. There’s no need for a waiting area on the street, it’s a conservation area, and it’s totally unnecessary. Taking down those trees would make a laughing stock out of the whole council.”
Bryan Davies, a local resident, also told the committee there were serious traffic problems in the village due to the school.
“I have lived in St Nicholas for 30 years. Both my sons went to the school. There’s always been a problem with the traffic at this school because of the access with the lanes which are so narrow. Currently with the pick-up system, the lane from the school down to the A48 is blocked from about 3.10pm to 3.30pm.
“Whatever the school tries to do, they can’t alleviate that or change it. This site is too small for the school—it doesn’t fit. The community is in full support of a new school, we know a new school is wanted, but this site is too small. There are better alternative sites available, where the children could have far more playing area, with room for expansion.”
When the planning committee turned down the previous plans, to double the size of the school, councillors urged the council’s education department to find an alternative site, recognising the increasing need in the local area for a much larger school with more places. But due to concerns over the cost of an alternative site, the current location will be kept.
Speaking in favour of the planning application, Ceri Hunt, parent and governor, said the replacement school and new drop-off area would ease congestion issues in the village.
“The intention to rebuild the school is extremely welcome news to governors, teachers and parents, as we’re all well aware of the limited space and infuriating physical state of the school. The days of papering over the cracks are gone.
“The lack of nursery provision in St Nicholas forces parents in the catchment area to make decisions to send their children out of the catchment area. This application fixes that issue.
“It was inevitable there would be complications regarding highways due to the nature of the village. The school organises a minibus to help ease congestion, and the current capacity is 30 pupils in the morning and afternoon, with space to grow if required. We see this planning application as an improvement to the current highways situation.”
Council bosses said the replacement plans could not be turned down because of the existing traffic issues in the village, and the replacement school would likely ease congestion.
Ian Robinson, operational manager for planning and building control, said:
“We have a school with pre-existing traffic issues. This application can’t be expected to rectify all of those issues in order to be acceptable. We don’t believe a refusal could be justifiably sustained on the basis that it would not rectify all existing traffic problems.”