For those battling to stop Carmarthenshire County Council from closing Pantycelyn secondary school, Llandovery, the fight goes on. This is despite an adverse ruling in February where a judge refused permission for a Judicial Review concerning the closure and the site selection process for the new school. The campaigners have now heard there will be an oral appeal against the ruling, in front of a different judge on the 8th March.
The council, in the shape of the Cllr Gwynne Wooldridge, the Executive Board Member with the responsibility for education, has of course denounced the campaigners for not accepting the judge's ruling and accused them of jeopardizing the youngsters' education. A common theme regarding opposition to any council-led projects, no matter how flawed. As you may recall from previous blog posts the closure of this school, as part of the Council's plan to 'modernise education' will mean children will have to travel miles to the new school, when and if it is built, and the disappearance of such an essential part of the community will have a devastating effect on the small market town of Llandovery.
The judge had concluded, from the written evidence, that 'all matters' had been properly considered - apart from the one relating to public opinion of course, which Carmarthenshire Council has ensured was never taken into account. The local Members, Cllrs Jackson and Theophilus (Llandovery and surrounding area) now have their chance, finally, to publicly express their support for the aims of the Action Group, and make submissions to the oral hearing without delay, before the heart of the community they supposedly represent is ripped out. They stated their opposition to closure at a meeting of full council a couple of months ago but of course it was too late for their views, for whatever they are worth in this officer-led council, to be taken into consideration - this will be their last chance.
Here's a press release from the Ysgol Pantycelyn Action Group;
"The statement issued by Carmarthenshire Council implies that it is only the Ysgol Pantycelyn Action Group (YPAG) seeking a Judicial Review (JR), but one must remember also the wholehearted support of Llandovery town with a petition with of over 2000 names and letters. YPAG have also secured £12000 worth of pledges in opposition to the scheme and the full support of Llandovery Town Council.
We – YPAG - still maintain that the choice of site was never included in the original consultation and was never one of the sites looked at by the consultants Atkins and we also maintain that the consultation process was already pre-decided.
YPAG are still actively pursuing the JR application and have requested an oral hearing, which is being held on the 8th March 2012 in Cardiff Civil Centre.
The school started to suffer as soon as it was announced that the school might close. The pupils are not suffering from the legal action, but will definitely suffer if the new school is built in Ffairfach. Let us not forget that all pupils from Llandovery and the surroundings areas will have to travel vast distances if the new school proposals go ahead.
Cllr Gwynne Wooldridge does not seem to have taken into account the very nature of this unique rural area, nor the fact that Pantycelyn is a very successful secondary school.
Carmarthenshire County Council have contributed towards falling pupil numbers at Pantycelyn as they have never allowed any development in the town or surrounding areas. They therefore must take some of the responsibility for this.
DO CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL EVER REALLY LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE THAT PAY THEIR WAGES?
WE VERY MUCH WANT TO KEEP PANTYCELYN SCHOOL IN LLANDOVERY"
Previous posts include; Pantycelyn Update and Poetry Please
Rumours I have been hearing for a few days are now confirmed - the Dinefwr programme concerning Pantycelyn has now been postponed for one year as the Welsh Minister will not make a determination whether or not to 'call-in' the decision until the legal process has been completed.
This is good news and will give everybody more time to reflect on the consequences of this school closure on the children, parents and wider community.
I would like to add that the information about the postponement was in the form of an 'Update' from Mr Sully, Director of Education. It was sent home with all the pupils from Pantycelyn. In it he says; "a group of stakeholders have actively pursued gaining permission to launch a legal claim in the form of a Judicial Review..." Mr Sully appear to have been on the verge of calling them a group of outlaws - for 'stakeholders' read 'parents', 'children' and 'residents of Llandovery'.