A petition to save Ynysderw playing fields in Pontardawe has received over 500 signatures in less than 24 hours. The council intend to build the largest primary school in the borough on the grounds.
The exact location of the school was only revealed via a freedom of information request. We understand that it was not known by councilors at the time that they narrowly approved the controversial school.
There is anger within the community that an officer from the council told Fields in trust that these fields are “not really used”. Something which residents say is not true.
Whilst signing the petition on Change.org many commented on this aspect. “Our house overlooks these playing fields and I can assure you they are used on a regular basis” one resident said. “The fields are in constant use and to claim otherwise is a financially motivated lie” was another. “These playing fields are much used and much needed.” Another comment but there were many similar messages.
Fields in trust are in charge of protecting the land. Ensuring that it is kept for recreational purposes. They can however exchange the protection of the land onto another parcel of land close by. This should be a larger/better quality bit of recreational land.
A Freedom of information request revealed that the council officer had told Fields in trust that ‘“the pitches in these areas are not really used as they have very poor drainage”.
As you can see, residents feel that this is not true. Many believe there have been further lies within the school proposals. As well as this, the Director of Education for Neath Port Talbot Council, Andrew Thomas is a former manager at Pontardawe Leisure Centre. The consultation and reports on the school closures was written by Andrew Thomas. Some believe he, himself has knowingly misled within these documents.
It seems unlikely to many residents that the Director of Education is unaware of the officers comments to fields in trust nor of how well the playing fields are used (considering he used to manage them).
The relationship between Neath Port Talbot Borough Council and residents in the Swansea Valley appears to have hit rock bottom. There is a belief that the council are forcing this school through without any care of its impact to the area.
Again, we can see this in the comments with the petition:-
“Sneaky tactics again.”
“Because NPT council don’t know their behind from their elbow – just look at the number of HMOs around Bay Campus”
“Council continue to lie too.”
“Land on the moon”
There is a real sense that there is no respect being shown from NPTC. Summed up by this comment by Ben Thomas:-
“The land being offered by the local authority ‘in exchange’ for the playing field is woodland – a completely inappropriate swap for a few reasons.”
“For one, you can’t play cricket/football/rugby or have community fetes etc. in the woods.”
“Secondly, the woodland being nominated has no prospect of ever being developed on as it’s floodplain woodland, and cliff-side woodland.”
“It is not a like-for-like (or “like-for-better”) in any sense of the term. They might as well exchange the playing fields for land on the moon or at the bottom of the sea from future development.”
“Lastly, the council have told Fields In Trust that if they release the playing field land to the local authority, they will use previously unknown, undocumented slush-fund money to improve the draining and contamination on whatever might remain of the playing fields that isn’t consumed by the school.”
“This “scheme” was completely hidden from public scrutiny at consultation, and will obviously only be carried as “best efforts”. When the council discover that the valley floor is full of concrete rubble, they’ll abandon the ‘promise’.”