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Objection Report

Alternative Options

  • No consideration has been afforded to repair or refurbishment of the existing schools, it's appears this is not about local education, rather the lure of a 22million pound contract.
  • Only the solution recommended by officers was open for consultation, with no opportunity for the community to look at alternative solutions to address issues.
  • If you have money for such a huge school then you have money to improve the facilities at the 3 schools you plan to close
  • Scrap the proposal as it is and renovate and rejuvenate the existing schools, allowing them to be the centrepiece of their communities and providing another 100 years of education where it is at its most accessible. 
  • I am also particularly concerned that the consultation report suggested that the funding available under the 21st Century Schools programme would be unlikely to be approved for “patch and mend” of the existing school sites, although this is what happened in the case of Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera’s secondary provision and is an available option under the programme.

Officer Response

During the consultation a number of alternative options were brought forward by consultees for consideration and these, along with the options contained in the original consultation document, have been explored and reported upon in the consultation report (pgs. 44-52). It is therefore not the case that alternative options have not been considered or that only one option has been presented.

As stated in the Consultation report it is important to clarify that the backlog maintenance and accessibility costs derived from the condition reports are estimates. The backlog costs are for putting the building back into repair, and do not allow for improving or upgrading which would provide schools with enhanced facilities for teaching and learning. 

Welsh Government have a strict business case process that must be satisfied that includes scrutiny of the strategic, economic and financial case of any proposal. It is considered highly unlikely that Welsh Government would financially support the ‘patch and mend’ status quo approach that is being suggested, advocating that it would be a better use of public funds to simply undertake backlog maintenance works.

It is not the case that Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera –Bro Dur has experienced a ‘patch and mend’ approach. During Band A of the 21st Schools Programme £18 m was invested at the schools’ north campus in Ystalyfera, with a further £9m investment in Band B, leading to an almost completely new build school with only two of the previous smaller teaching blocks remaining.  A complete new build project, which would be a far cheaper and less disruptive approach, would have been preferable if enough land had been available to completely rebuild the school, however the constrained site at Ystalyfera and the lack of sufficient and available land elsewhere in the Swansea Valley has meant that the transformation of the school to a 21st century facility has had to take place over a number of phases.  

It is also the case that all three existing schools are compromised in terms of their building suitability for 21st Century teaching and learning and fall short of many of the internal and external space standards and requirements as set out within Building Bulletin 99 that one would ordinarily expect to see in a brand new 21st Century school.

The existing shortcomings of each building would remain as is and to all intents and purposes the opportunity of creating 21st Century facilities would be missed.

The Council currently spends circa £1.2m each year of its own capital funding to address maintenance needs on schools and there are many competing priorities each and every year. Given the current financial situation it is not realistic to expect a huge influx or redistribution of finances in the foreseeable future.

Without Welsh Government’s 65% contribution to the costs of construction of a new school, any alternative proposal that revolved around maintaining all three existing schools and the pool in their current locations would mean that the Council would have to meet 100% of any associated capital costs.

With this in mind and even if as suggested the Council only addressed the notional £3.274m of backlog maintenance costs at Alltwen, Godre’rgraig, Llangiwg Primary schools and Pontardawe Swimming Pool then that alone would exhaust all of the capital resources currently allocated to cover repairs and backlog maintenance pressures across the whole of the school portfolio for almost three years.

Such a situation would be untenable and to the detriment of all schools in Neath Port Talbot and not a direction the Council would choose to embark upon, therefore meaning that if this proposal does not progress then the backlog maintenance for each of the buildings will remain and in all probability only be addressed on a phased basis as and when elements deteriorate to such an extent that interruptions to teaching and learning becomes imminent.