Hundreds object to plans for replacement of high school building in Cardiff
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Hundreds of people across Cardiff have objected to controversial plans for a replacement building for Cathays High School.
Concerns include increased traffic, lots of pupils coming from outside of the catchment area, and the closure of the Maindy velodrome.
Cardiff council gave time for public objections over the summer on its plans for a new building for the high school.
Following the objection period council bosses are expected to sign off the plans on Thursday, October 14, during a cabinet meeting.
Councillor Sarah Merry, cabinet member for education, employment and skills, said: “The Band B programme seeks to address the most acute sufficiency and condition issues in Cardiff, and Cathays High School has been identified as in need of investment and redevelopment.
“This will provide pupils, staff and the local community with access to modern, improved and inspiring facilities, fit for 21st-century learning.
“The central location of the school within the city means it is well placed to support growth in its locality as well as other areas, helping to meet the projected demand for community English-medium places, as well as meeting the demand for city-wide additional specialist resource base places for learning with autism spectrum condition.”
If approved, Cathays High School would get new buildings on the opposite side of Crown Way from its current location. The school’s capacity would increase from 1,072 places to 1,450 places from September 2023. Spaces for pupils with autism would also increase, from 16 places currently to 50 places and new purpose-built accommodation.
The local community would also have access to school facilities, and space for “off-road open spaces for informal leisure use”.
A recent cabinet report revealed that the consultation received 425 objections, including 97 from people living in Cathays, 83 from Heath, and 50 from Gabalfa. The report explored the concerns of respondents to the consultation, and an “appraisal of views” from council staff.
One issue raised is how many pupils at Cathays High School travel in from other parts of the city, outside of the catchment area. Increasing capacity could mean an even higher proportion of pupils travelling in from outisde the catchment area.
One respondent said: “Cathays already accommodates so many who live outside the area with the school having the highest percentage of pupils of any authority school in Cardiff who travel in from outside of the catchment area. This currently stands at approximately 60 per cent from outside of catchment.
“Increasing capacity to 1,450 will mean increasing the proportion of pupils attending from outside of catchment to roughly 70 per cent, approximately 1,000 pupils. Pupils should be able to obtain a school place within catchment. If there are insufficient places, then schools should expand to cater for demand, or new schools should be built in areas of increased demand.”
As Cathays High School lies in the middle of Cardiff, it’s well placed to support growth in other areas of the city, the council said. Its catchment area lies next to the catchment area of five other English-medium high schools. Huge new housing developments in the northwest and northeast of the city are also expected to increase demand for secondary school places, which Cathays High School is planned to cater for.
Another issue is the potential for increased traffic and parking issues. Crown Way, which links North Road and Whitchurch Road, could be closed to through traffic as part of the plans.
A second respondent said: “The council has not made clear the infrastructure implications for local residents, including suggestions that Crown Way may be permanently closed. The plans would be likely to have negative effects on congestion, pollution, road safety and active travel throughout Cathays and Gabalfa, affecting school pupils and local residents.”
While the consultation document sent to residents said Crown Way might need to be closed, transport planners now appear to have dropped the closure plans, according to the latest cabinet report. Also, the council is planning to increase parking restrictions around the high school, improve public transport, and encourage pupils to walk or cycle to school.
A third issue is how the velodrome at the Maindy site would be relocated to the International Sports Village. Save the Maindy Velodrome, a campaign group, has been set up to fight the plans to relocate the cycling track, arguing it means a loss of sporting heritage, and the new location would be less accessible, more than four miles away from the current track.
A third respondent said: “The timescales for the delivery of the new velodrome by the end of 2022 are unrealistic, and there are significant concerns that the Maindy track will be demolished before a new facility is operational, due to the timescales associated with the school redevelopment.
“The Maindy velodrome must remain open until the new site is operational.”
The council has insisted the Maindy velodrome would stay open until the new track at the International Sports Village is ready, thought to be by spring 2023. The cabinet report added the alternative site is well served by public transport, and the replacement plans are supported by Welsh Cycling, and will mean a huge investment and upgrade to the track.
Cllr Merry said: “Public consultation has played an important part in the development of the plans so far. There has been substantial support for the redevelopment of the school, however I am aware of a number of concerns raised relating to the impact on public open-access space and use of existing local leisure amenities.
“This has been considered and if progressed, a large increased area of community space would be retained which would be landscaped in parts to provide the most appropriate and usable area possible. This would be in addition to the facilities provided within the boundary of the school that would be available to the community outside of school hours, and also continued access to the facilities at the Maindy Centre.”
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