A freedom of information request has allowed us to see the desired location for the proposed new Primary School in the Swansea Valley. We can also reveal how the council intend to build on the protected site.

The FOI request showed us an exchange in emails between Neath Port Talbot Council and Fields in Trust who look after Parc Ynysderw Playing Fields.

The council hope Fields in trust will allow the council to build on the protected land. However they would need to replace the protected land with another piece of land. Within it the council officer says :- “Obviously from the Councils point of view (and with respect) we want to have to provide the minimum area of land as a replacement as possible.”

What is it about?

The council controversially wish to close 3 good primary schools (maybe more – click here) in the Swansea Valley. They then wish to build the largest primary in the borough on a site near Pontardawe Leisure Centre. The Council own the land; however, the fields are protected by Fields in Trust.

Why is Parc Ynysderw protected?

Parc Ynysderw in Pontardawe, has been protected with Fields in Trust since 31 January 1963. It is protected as a King George V Playing Field and was ‘left to the community of Pontardawe’ for recreational purposes.

This is one of 2,882 parks and green spaces across the UK which are protected with Field in Trust for community access to nature, sport and play.

These fields cannot be built on. As the country fights obesity and climate change, such fields are seen as increasingly important. Areas for children (and adults) to play and exercise outdoors are seen as vital.


The council could build on the land if they could negotiate an exchange with fields in trust. This is what the emails which we have been sent relate to. Essentially, the council want to swap the protection from the field that they wish to build on for a different field.

We wish to point out that the ownership of the land is irrelevant. It is the protection of the land which is.  

Is the Council Officer being Dishonest?

We can reveal this image which the council officer sent to fields in trust. Within it the officer states that “the pitches in these areas are not really used as they have very poor drainage”. Many parents who have been to Pontardawe Leisure Centre on a normal (non-Covid) Saturday morning believe this is not true.

New School

There are regularly a couple of hundred children who play on the proposed field on a Saturday morning. There is also a full sized football pitch which will be lost. A football pitch which thousands of adults would have played on.

Council Tactics

Saying that these fields are “not really used” appears no accident. This is a negotiation. One where the Council officer appears to be instructed to get the best deal. In the exchanges, he seems to do an exceptionally good job. It will be disappointing to some that the councils ‘best deal’ is one which leaves Pontardawe residents with the least, recreational land possible.

Playing down the quality of the existing land is all part of that negotiation. Essentially, the approach is: ‘this land is useless, can I swap it for some other piece of useless land?’ Whereas some would argue that the truth is more like: ‘I want to build a building on a field where hundreds of kids play every week. Can I swap it for some useless piece of land please?”

Fields in Trust

For any exchange, the Trust regulations state :-
– The quality of the land and facilities to be acquired should be better than those being released.

  • The quantity of land to be newly protected must be no less than that to be released. This equivalent size criterion normally applies to the replacement land being land newly brought into recreational use. In certain circumstances, land already in recreational use might be acceptable for exchange but it would need to be substantially greater in size than the land being released.

So, if the council wanted to build on a good quality playing field then Pontardawe could expect a larger, good quality playing field. If fields in trust can be convinced that the field is essentially a 365 day a year bog then nothing is lost; they are more likely to accept any old field as a replacement. 

Councils Offer

The council offer the choice of 3 areas. Two fields in Rhos which Fields in Trust say are ‘unacceptable’ but also parts of Glantawe Riverside Centre and Glanrhyd Plantation. Pictured below.

Glanrhyd & Cwm Du Glen
Glantawe Riverside Centre

I spoke with a local builder who tells me that “there is no prospect whatsoever of any building ever happening on either of those sites. None at all. They are already recreational. The land is either too steep or in a flood plain. They may as well offer a part of the sea and protect building on that.”

The councils ‘offer’ would see an inevitable reduction in open space in Pontardawe. The sites offered are under no threat of being built upon. Pontardawe would lose a substantial playing field with no gain.

What they say now?

We contacted the officer at Neath Port Talbot Council for a comment but we heard no response. Fields in trust told us:-

“The planning system provides the mechanism for community comment and opposition to local council proposals. Fields in Trust wants to see as much recreational green space protected as possible and recognises that this needs to be balanced with other local amenity provision. To inform and support local campaigners, we have published Watch This Space a guide to help local communities champion their local parks, support their upkeep and campaign to protect them from loss.”

Does this seem a good swap for Pontardawe to you? Comment below


  • July 1, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Definetly not a good trade!!!

    Like the schools my footballing education was on those fields for over 10 years and many youngsters still do!!!

    Does this council want to rip the heart and soul completely out of Pontardawe!!!

  • July 1, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    It’s absolutely scandalous that this should even be considered, the playing fields are used regularly, by Rugby,football, dog walkers,and families having fun,and let’s not forget the annu events The rugby seven, football competitiobs and in the past the Annual Pontardawe Festival, the planning officer and his/her colleagues should randomly attend the playing fields on a weekend to see the actual usage that they get, the people of Pontardawe and surrounding areas should clearly make their wishes on this matter felt to Neath Port Talbot Council, and it’s elected representatives

  • July 1, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    Lets be honest, this whole deal is about money. The council is dying to sell off the primary schools to a housing developer who could easily fit several semi-detached properties on the land and make a buck. No consideration has gone to the children or the community. If the council says the schools are in disrepair, then i’d ask why they haven’t been maintained? Young children learn best in small classes where they feel safe and have individual attention. Communities benefit from local schools where parents know each other and businesses benefit from foot traffic. Only today I walked to the local park after school with some other parents and all the children played together for a few hours. That would not happen at a super school where we would have to drive to pick up our children.

    This whole plan is a crying shame and I hope the council listen to the community, because I have yet to meet one single person who thinks this is a good idea.

    • July 4, 2021 at 10:10 am

      This land currently used for recreation held by fields in trust is a good fit for purpose; it is flat, convenient for leasure with adjoining facilities such as parking, changing rooms and football club, the grass is mown suitable to play sports on. The suggested land swap is very different. The land at Cwm du Glen is very steep densley wooded and has no parking facilities. While the land at the riverside, that is not already used, is a mix of scrub woodland invasive species and lot of rubble left from old industry, next to a busy bypass rd. I don’t think it is a great swap. Both sites already exist as amenity recreation land so this will be a net loss.

  • July 1, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    The playing fields at Pontardawe leisure centre are not just used for football & rugby, people exercise there, they walk dogs there & the cycle path and woods beside it are a haven for wildlife. If this school is built there it will be detrimental to all the aforementioned activities. The noise and traffic would have a devastating effect on the surrounding area and will impact on people’s ability to exercise or enjoy this area.

  • July 3, 2021 at 10:15 am

    I walk my dogs on this area most days, and always see other walkers/dog walkers, kids playing football etc- how can the council claim it is not used regularly, and how can they claim they are giving equivalent land when they plan to use land that is already a recreational area-they are reducing, not replacing, to create a school no one wants. Typical council half truths. I hope fields in trust do not accept.

  • July 3, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    I am shocked by all three proposed sites. All of which would increase traffic . There is no easy way to allow more cars to go to the site near Cwmtawe School.
    Very few young children would be able to walk to a school in Glanrhyd and equally to Glantawe Riverside. In addition valuable educational work is being done by the man in charge at Glantawe Riverside. To destroy what he has built up over the years would be a crime.
    What about dealing with Climate change which is at last being recognised as being caused by excess carbon being released by combustion engines?
    To say nothing about the obesity epidemic among young children who would benefit from being able to walk to a local school.

  • Pingback: David Morris tributes a sign of a broken and suspicious Wales.

  • Pingback: NPT Council apply to change use of land at Ynysderw Playing Fields

  • Pingback: NPT Council pave way to build controversial school on Pontardawe Fields

Comments are closed.