Decision Maker: Council
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support presented a report, seeking Council approval for a capital budget for the proposed Porthcawl Welsh-medium seedling school scheme’s design and survey costs up to tender stage to be included in the Council’s capital programme. This would be funded from Bridgend County Borough Council resources initially, on the assumption that costs will be recovered once Welsh Government has approved the re-submitted business justification case.
He explained that following desktop appraisal of options for developing a Welsh-medium seedling school in the Porthcawl area, a report was submitted to Cabinet in September 2021, who approved the submission of an expression of interest to Welsh Government in respect of the second tranche of the Welsh-medium capital grant. Welsh Government approved this in principle following a business justification case being submitted to them in May 2022. BCBC had recently been advised however, that this needed to be re-submitted, once tenders relating to the scheme have been returned.
The Welsh-medium capital grant commits Welsh Government to 100% of the scheme funding, but only upon their approval of the business justification case.
Council approval is now required, therefore, to include a capital budget for this scheme’s design and survey costs (up to tender stage) in the Council’s capital programme.
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support, advised that up front design/survey costs (required in order to develop the scheme to tender stage and thereby meet Welsh Government business justification re-submission requirements) were currently estimated to be circa £370k.
These costs would need to be funded from uncommitted capital in the interim.
The Welsh-medium capital grant commits Welsh Government to 100% of the funding upon approval of the business case and permission for a budget for this scheme’s design and survey costs (up to tender stage) to be included in the Council’s capital programme is now sought from Council, on the assumption that costs will be fully recovered once Welsh Government has approved the re-submitted business justification case. Council approval will be sought to accept the risk in the interim, this being that should Welsh Government ultimately fail to approve the business case, the incurred design and survey costs (up to tender stage) would need to be funded by the Council as abortive revenue costs.
A Member whilst welcoming the report, asked why the proposal was for a Welsh Seedling School in this area rather than a Welsh Primary School.
The Cabinet Member – Education advised that the new school would cater for Nursery and Reception age children and there would be a proposal moving forward for the provision of welsh medium education for primary aged pupils in time and in conjunction with the further progression of the regeneration work ongoing in the Porthcawl location.
A Member asked why consideration hadn’t been given to make provision for Welsh Medium education in other areas of the County Borough, for example in Pencoed.
The Cabinet Member – Education advised that due to the excessive areas of flood plain within the town it was difficult to build development in the area, however, in the Replacement Local Development Plan (LDP), consideration would be given for welsh medium education at Pencoed.
A Member noted that certain schools previously constructed in areas of the County Borough required extending, due to the fact that the size of the schools had not sufficiently met future new housing allocation in the area and any subsequent increased population that came with this. He therefore sought assurance, that this had been considered in this case.
The Cabinet Member – Education acknowledged this, but stated that a change of formula for Section 106 Agreement allocations had now been put in place, that would ensure that this problem in the future will significantly reduce.
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support added his Officers and key Members, had worked closely with the Council’s Planning Officers on the Replacement LDP and housing land allocations and with a reconfiguration of statutory planning guidance he anticipated this would help prevent cases of the above re-occurring in the future. He added that welsh local authorities now had a statutory duty to expand welsh language provision at its schools.
A Member asked for some assurance that the new school would reach capacity in terms of pupils and if there was any assurance that this would be the case, as opposed to it becoming over-populated with pupils. If this did not turn out to be the case, could the school possibly be used for alternative means of education
The Corporate Director – Education and Family Support advised that the School Modernisation team had done some considerable research which strongly indicated that with the demand in the Porthcawl area and the growth of welsh language learning at an early age in surrounding areas such as Cornelly and Pyle, that there would be no resulting excess spaces at the school upon it being constructed and occupied with pupils. This had been backed-up by survey work, he added. To date around £2.6m of funding had been secured by the Council for welsh medium education provision.
In response to a question regarding a breakdown of the finance to support the provision of the new school, the Corporate Director – Education and Family Support, advised that there was a budget of £676k allocated for the project, with application to Welsh Government for £370k funding in the interim to complete feasibility and design work etc. A consultation exercise would also be put in place on the proposal, involving a range of statutory stakeholders. A further progress report would be brought back to Members, should the need arise.
The Leader concluded debate adding that at present there was no current provision of welsh medium education within Porthcawl.
RESOLVED: That Council approved a capital budget of £370k for the proposed Porthcawl Welsh-medium seedling school scheme’s design and survey costs up to tender stage to be included in the Council’s capital programme, initially funded from BCBC resources on the assumption that costs will be recovered once Welsh Government has approved the re-submitted business justification case.
Publication date: 23/05/2023
Date of decision: 16/11/2022
Decided at meeting: 16/11/2022 - Council