Further investigation into landslide risk which led to school closure approved
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
Councillors have approved a further investigation into a landslide risk which led to the temporary closure of a school in Ystalyfera.
Members of Neath Port Talbot Council have agreed for experts to undertake an indepth study and produce a plan of action for a spoil tip that could cause a landslide.
Godre’r Graig Primary School in Ystalyfera, was closed in July 2019 after a geological experts found a medium level risk from Cilmaengwyn Tip linked to springs and ground water near the school.
A study by Earth Science Partnership (ESP) found a stream blocked by bad weather could cause rising water levels and pressures in the tip and lead to material to flowing downhill.
During a meeting held on Friday May 21, councillors agreed to pay ESP £20,000 to research three proposed approaches to the problem.
The options that will be considered for the site are:
- Remove the spoil material linked to the tip
- “Hard engineering” including drainage work to protect Godre’r Graig Primary School from the slippage of any spoil material from the tip
- Demolish the school and use the site for “community benefit”
Research in 2020 found quarry waste from the tip “may be, or has become, actively unstable”, which means “slopes where destabilising forces produce continuous or intermittent movements”, according to a report by the council’s head of engineering and transport.
The report states the tip poses “a very low to low risk to residential properties in Godre’r Graig”, which is “usually acceptable to regulators” and risk to nearby cemeteries is “likely to be lower”.
Plaid Cymru councillor Rosalyn Davies asked council officers how the site could be “considered for community benefit if it’s unsafe for pupils and staff”.
Mr David Griffiths, head of engineering and transport, said: “I don’t think it would involve the site being able to be developed in terms of housing for example, or community halls or anything of that nature, but there may be other green type community benefits that may be appropriate. We’ll wait to see what thoughts the consultant comes forward with on that point.”
Mr Griffiths also said council officers expect it would cost around £4 million to remove the spoil material from the tip, which could take between 18 months and two years.
“Anything’s doable in terms of engineering solutions – it’s just the physical ability to do that and in what timescales and obviously cost would be a factor.”
He added that Godre’r Graig Primary School has not been permanently closed and ESP’s study “will provide further information around that decision making process”.
Since September, 2019, pupils at Godre’r Graig moved into temporary classrooms at Cwmtawe Community School in Pontardawe, and have been there ever since.
Hasan Hasan, the council’s engineering manager said the ESP study would take around four to six weeks to complete.