Last week, my daughter brought home from nursery a document produced by Cardiff Council setting out the school admissions process for 2015/16. Next Monday, 13th of October, the application window for admission to reception class opens. As someone who has been asking Cardiff Council for a Welsh medium primary school in Grangetown for some time, I was disappointed that we have reached this point with the council still to reveal their plan to deliver the 60 reception class places promised in their latest WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) document. In fairness those places are planned for the 2016 intake but we were also told that a temporary starter school would be established but there is no mention of that either. We had hoped that the council’s cabinet member for Education, Julia Magill, would offer some update to the process when the council returned from it’s summer break but there is still no sign of any progress, so it looks like we will have to apply to send our daughter to Ysgol Pwll Coch in Canton, as there is still no school in Grangetown for her.
While we wait with baited breath for Cardiff council’s next move, I thought I would look at some of the options for a new welsh medium primary school in Grangetown, who knows, it might even give Councillor Magill and her officers an idea or two.
Channel View Centre
The first option is the the only one that featured in Cardiff Council’s public engagement consultation earlier in the year, and it has faced stiff opposition from users of the centre who fear the loss of leisure facilities and residents who fear traffic congestion on Ferry Road and Jim Driscoll Way. Nevertheless it is the only site on the short list that was in Grangetown, and suitable for a new two form entry school. Given that the council’s cabinet members for education and leisure have issued a statement confirming that a school at Channel View would better safeguard sports and leisure services than a stand alone centre, as currently exists, lets assume they would provide a mixed school/community facility. There are examples of schools combined with community facilities that can be accessed not only after school and during holidays but during the school day as well. However the site is quite small to accommodate all this and I think the building will need to be expanded to allow the retention of assets such as the sports hall. To save space, the building could include a rooftop playground like this Elementary school in central Los Angeles. I would try to retain the recently installed outdoor all weather pitch.
The former gas works, adjacent to the Ikea store off Ferry Road, was not included on the short list for the engagement process but was on the long list of sites that were discounted for various reasons. This site has been talked about frequently as a possible site for a new school, but Cardiff council does not own the site and it would likely be expensive to remediate the historically contaminated land. A school here would depend on a developer taking on the site for residential and the council negotiating the provision of a school. Although the site is much larger than Channel View, and so could conceivably provide a more spacious setting for a school, a developer is unlikely to be keen on taking on the expense of remediation only to have the lion’s share of the site taken over by a school, so I have shown the school occupying around a quarter of the 10 hectare site which would still allow a decent amount of outside space and the opportunity of a less “high rise” building.
Land Adjacent to Clive Street Lane and Ikea
The third site is a wild card, the long strip of land between Clive Street Lane, the Ikea store and the railway line, it was included on the long list in Cardiff Council’s engagement document. I am not quite sure exactly why this site was discounted. but I assume that most of the sites on the long list were discounted for a combination of size and the cost to develop them. The size of the site is actually quite good at 2.2 hectares but the shape and the challenge of some significant changes in level make this quite a challenging site, but I think that’s what makes the site interesting. I also think that the development of what is currently derelict waste land would benefit the adjacent Clive Street lane, which is subject to persistent fly tipping and other anti social behaviour. Perhaps making the lane a little more overlooked and upgrading it’s surroundings would have a beneficial effect.
I hope that we hear of more progress towards a new school for Grangetown soon and my great hope is that the problems this project has faced can be transformed into an opportunity to design something innovative and special that we can be proud of.
*I produced the (very) rough 3D sketch models shown here using Autodesk Formit*