Council says earth bank near primary school is safe after parents voice concern
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
A report from Neath Port Talbot Council has said the structure of an earth bank at the front of Abbey Primary School in Neath is stable, despite concerns raised by parents.
The mound of earth, which is several metres high, could be seen cracking and spilling onto the school access road and footpath in June, as heavy rainfall led to a run-off of topsoil from the bank.
And while the school has not been closed as a result, it has forced staff to implement an alternative route for parents and pupils to access the site until the school closes for the summer holidays.
Council bosses say contractors have been carrying out works to prevent any further problems, and have ensured any build up of water will go into a nearby land drain, though concerns have been raised by parents over what they said is an intimidating feature on the daily school run.
Susan Howells drops her child off at the school and says she and a number of other parents were very worried at what they had seen.
She said: “The mound of earth is directly above the school path and walking past watching it crack and spill out onto the road definitely makes you feel intimidated.
“It’s a very large pile of earth and the fear of it collapsing is one we all have at the moment, and we’ve been stopped from walking near it as a result.
“There is a sort of membrane net placed around the earth but to be honest, given the height of the pile, it doesn’t seem substantial enough to stop it collapsing.
“It’s already started to spill out of the bottom in June and is very scary, particularly when you see workers clearing it up, or think about children accidentally going near it.”
When speaking of the earth leaking from the mound, a spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council said this was an isolated event and confirmed the mound, which forms part of earthworks at the front of the school, was deemed safe.
They said: “An engineer’s report has confirmed the structure of an earth bank
forming part of earthworks at the front of Abbey Primary School in Longford, Neath, is stable.
“The contractors have chosen the summer holidays to complete the earthworks as it will involve the use of heavy machinery. A specialist membrane is installed in the bank to help hold the soil in place until such time as grass seed can germinate and naturally bind the soil.
“Over the last week, the contractors have been carrying out works to prevent any further problems and have ensured any build up of water will go into a land drain.
“Over the next few weeks and over the school summer holidays the contractors will add topsoil and grass seed to the school’s playing field so it can more efficiently absorb rainfall.
“Work is also being done to fertilise the earth bank to encourage grass and other vegetation to grow which will help bind and stabilise the layer of topsoil.
“A gabion stone wall, which is steel wire cages filled with rock, traditionally used to prevent erosion, will be installed at the base of the bank on its corner. While not required for the stability of the bank, its inclusion will provide a barrier between the bank and the footpath.
Cllr Martyn Peters, Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet member for economic and community regeneration, said: “We recognise there have been concerns but we have been dealing with issues around top soil run-off and both I and my fellow Dyffryn Ward member Cllr James Henton are happy with the mitigation measures put in place and with the engineer’s report about the safety of the earth bank’s main structure.”
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