Bridgend County Borough Council has reaffirmed its commitment towards Welsh language education after being forced to temporarily postpone plans to build a new school because of a delay in the development of a housing site.
Under Band B of the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, the council had initially planned to increase the number of Welsh-medium places in the north-east, south-east and the west of the county borough.
While feasibility studies for the north-east and west are already under way, a planned dual-stream Welsh and English-medium school for the south-east, which is intrinsically linked to the Parc Afon Ewenni development at Lower Coychurch, can no longer be delivered within the Band B time frame due to a delay in progressing the site for residential development.
Instead, the council is changing its plans so that the new school can be delivered as part of its Band C school modernisation proposals instead.
Council leader Huw David said: “While we have had to make changes to the Band B school submissions, there is no change to our commitment to Welsh-medium provision.
“The growth of the Welsh language continues to be a priority for the local authority, and work is ongoing to deliver on that commitment.
“The planned dual-stream Welsh and English-medium school at Parc Afon Ewenni presented an opportunity to promote the Welsh language within a new community, but as the future development of the site has been delayed, the new school at that location may now not be deliverable until Band C.”
The Leader, Cllr David, added: “In bringing forward the Mynydd Cynffig Primary School new build from Band C of the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, we are faced with lower growth in the number of Welsh-medium places than initially planned.
“Unfortunately, the significant building issue at the school’s infant site which meant it could no longer be used on health and safety grounds, and the lack of progress on the Parc Afon Ewenni site, has presented us with little choice.
“This will of course impact upon the number of Welsh-medium pupil places available within the county borough. While there will still be growth, it is no longer as high as originally planned, so where possible, we will be looking at further opportunities for providing more Welsh-medium places before Band C of the programme.”
The local authority is currently creating four Welsh-medium childcare projects in the county borough – in Bettws, Bridgend, Porthcawl and the Ogmore Valley – after receiving £2.6m funding from Welsh Government.
Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, Cllr Charles Smith, said: “In line with the council’s Cymraeg 2050 aspirations, an options appraisal is underway into developing a ‘seed’ Welsh-medium school in the Porthcawl area. This could potentially be co-located with the planned Welsh-medium childcare provision.
“There is a clear demand for Welsh-medium provision in the Porthcawl area, and from an economic perspective, it would make the most efficient use of funding to co-locate childcare and ‘seed’ Welsh-medium provisions on a single site if at all possible.
“Additionally, as residential developments are being identified through the Local Development Plan process, there may be opportunities to develop further Welsh-medium provision in areas of strategic growth.”