Monday, 5 August 2013

Community bulldozers

Another fine example of Carmarthenshire Council's 'community engagement' has yet again raised its dictatorial head. It concerns the latest 'draft' Supplementary Planning Guidance (part of the LDP 'Focussed Changes') for the site of Pantecelyn secondary School, Llandovery.

To give a little background, although much has been documented on this blog, the council drove forward it's plans to close the school and build a 'super school' thirteen miles away in Ffairfach, Llandeilo. Various sham 'consultations', petitions, court hearings, call-in attempts etc etc and overwhelming public opposition failed to make a dent in the council's original plans. Surprise surprise. There is little sign yet, mind you, of a brick being laid. But as with all great council plans, the assorted 'framework' of preferred consultancies have done very well out if it all so far, thank you very much.

Any residents who put their faith in the local Members to voice their opposition and stand up for the town, the local area, and the largest and most important community amenity, were bitterly disappointed. Neither Cllr Jackson nor Cllr Theophilus (representing most feeder primary schools) raised a murmur. When the vote for the new school was before the planning committee there wasn't even a token 'no' from these two; Cllr Jackson was on a cruise and Cllr Theophilus abstained.

With the town defeated, one of the remaining questions was what would become of the site. There has been speculation of course, including various ideas for a community centre. It came as something as a surprise therefore when the glossy 'draft' SPG appeared on the council website for 'consultation'. The 'plan', we now know, is to demolish the school, apart from the sports hall and swimming pool (not part of the school) and build 45 houses on the site and the playing field. I doubt if either the hall, nor the swimming pool will survive in the long run.

To me, the demolition of the school is little short of criminal damage, and as one group of residents put it, 'money raised for decades by townspeople to improve and enhance facilities in the school will be bulldozed into oblivion'. Again, the issue is not one of sentimentality but the complete lack of engagement with the community, it has all been the usual blatant pretence. This latest 'consultation' is not to determine whether the town thinks the plan is a good idea or not, it's merely to give it all a stamp of cosmetic democracy.

The 'Guidance' which is aimed at future developers, makes much use of the 'sustainability' of the site, eg the closeness to shops, public transport and other amenities. Conveniently ignored, of course, is the fact that all secondary school-age children in Llandovery and its surrounds will be burning the fossil fuel all the way to Ffairfach and back. As for the identity of Llandovery as a small but historic thriving market town, it is gradually being eroded into the vision preferred by Carmarthenshire County Council and the increasingly influential neighbour, Prince Charles and his Duchy of Cornwall.

Still, if you have an opinion, let the council know. The consultation runs until September 13th and the links can be accessed here.


Unknown said...

I do not think the battle is over yet. Attempts are being made to turn Llandovery into Portmeirion-on-the-Towy, a picture-book town for tourists to look at, not for people to live in.

Anonymous said...

I've read the LDP plans for developing the Ysgol Pantycelyn site, but I can't find any reference to similar plans for the Tregib site although there has been some mentio inthe local press. Can anyone point me in the right direction please?