Welsh medium school’s £12 million expansion plan set to be approved
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Expansion plans for a Welsh medium secondary school worth over £12m could soon be approved by councillors.
Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun in Penywaun will get new teaching and sports facilities if Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee approves plans at its meeting on Thursday, February 25.
As part of the 21st Century Schools Programme, RCT Council is planning to spend £26.8m on improving school facilities in the Cynon Valley with other projects including Hirwaun Primary School and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Aberdar.
The Rhydywaun proposals would see an extra 187 places created with a new school block containing eight classrooms, community rooms, drama and music facilities and a new school reception.
The current capacity of the school is 1,038 and a recent capacity calculation shows this is likely to be 1,225 under the new proposals including 200 sixth form students with the total number of staff increasing from 108 to 120.
There would also be a new sports hall, fitness suite and changing rooms along with extra parking and traffic improvements with work set to start in April this year if planning permission is given.
The council will contribute £4.2m towards the project with the rest being funded by the Welsh Government.
The plans would see two demountable classroom units, a vacant caretaker’s house and a car parking area all removed or demolished.
There would be a new car park containing 45 extra spaces at the southern boundary of the site replacing three existing outdoor tennis courts.
The plans also indicate that there would be five electric vehicle spaces as well as four visitor spaces and parking spaces for the disabled.
A cycle storage area with 24 spaces would also be provided.
One letter was received by the council from a local resident which raises a number of concerns over access to the school and whether there would be any changes, the impact on the sports playing fields in terms noise and use of flood lights and the impact upon neighbouring properties in terms of disturbances and devaluing of properties.
But in recommending approval, council planning officers said: “The proposal would provide a modern new building within the grounds of the existing school which forms part of the RCTCBC 21st Century Schools programme.
“It would enable an increase in the number of pupils at the school whilst also providing a much-needed community facility within the area.
“The existing school site is situated within the settlement boundary and within an established residential area where development is generally considered to be acceptable.
“The scale and design of the proposal is appropriate to the context of the existing school campus and it is not considered that it would have an adverse impact upon the character and appearance of the site or the surrounding area or upon the amenity and privacy of surrounding residential properties.”
They added: “Whilst the development would lead to an increase in pupil numbers, it is not considered that this would give rise to any significant increase in the level of noise and disturbance experienced by surrounding residents.
“Furthermore, the existing access to the school would be retained with additional parking being provided within the site and the council’s highways and transportation section consider this to be an improvement to the current situation in that the development would address the existing shortfall in the car parking requirement for the existing school whilst also providing off-street car parking in accordance with the SPG (supplementary planning guidance).”
The £10.2m improvements to Hirwaun Primary are being delivered in phases with the new school building having been completed in November 2020 and an on-site Flying Start provision having started in January 2021.
The project’s second phase is now underway – to demolish the old junior school block and deliver wider external facilities, including staff car parking, an ecological habitat area, a grass sports pitch and external spaces.
Penderyn Primary will become solely a Welsh medium school in September 2021 – when its English medium pupils will access the new school in Hirwaun.
A £4.5m investment will provide 48 extra Welsh medium places at YGG Aberdar to help meet demand and provide an on-site childcare setting through a £810,000 grant from Welsh Government.
It includes a four-classroom extension, an expansion of the existing hall and increased on-site parking.
Funding was agreed in November 2020 and the project’s detailed design is almost complete.
A consultation will be undertaken with the school community and local residents before a planning application is submitted and work could start this summer.