School Closure campaigners fail to persuade a Judge…
This sad little vignette must be typical of the experience of many campaigners who hope that the Courts will overturn decisions they dislike about local services.
What is interesting about this is that their claimed that the consultation “was lacking any impact statement on Special Educational Needs, Welsh language, Transport or Community.” – potentially good grounds for a challenge based on the Gunning Two Principles. The Judge was obviously sympathetic but seems to have refused permission to go to JR because the claim was ‘out of time’.
Yet another case where all would benefit if campaigners were more aware of ‘consultee rights’.
Dyma engraifft arall o’r anhawsterau rhaid I ymgyrchwyr oresgyn er mwyn cyrraedd y Llys.
A legal bid to save a village primary school from closure has been lost, with Wrexham Council set to recover several thousand pounds spend defending their position.
Campaigners had been trying to keep Ysgol Pontfadog in the Ceiriog Valley safe from closure following a decision made by executive board members last summer.
The school, which has been in the village for more than 110 years, forms part of the Ceiriog Valley Federation along with Ysgol Llanarmon and Ysgol Cynddelw.
The potential closure of the school has been on the cards for over 12 months, with Wrexham Council launching a public consultation on the following three options in 2017:
– Retain the status quo with all three schools remaining as they are currently.
– Change language designation at Ysgol Cynddelw to Welsh medium.
– Propose closure of Ysgol Pontfadog and re-locate pupils to the Cynddelw dual stream site.
Despite fierce opposition from the public and more than 1,340 objections submitted, eight members of the executive board voted in favour of closing the school last.
The decision was made due to what was described as a “drop in pupil numbers at both Ysgol Pontfadog and Ysgol Cynddelw schools due to a growing Welsh medium demand in the valley”.
But the decision was branded “shameful” and a “whitewash” by campaigners – with the previous consultation process also described as flawed.
In a bid to save the school from closure later this year a legal challenge was made – however a statement posted by the ‘Parents and friends of Pontfadog’ explained that it had been unsuccessful.
The statement reads: “On the 28th February myself, as the claimant, my partner John, my mum and dad and my barrister attended an Oral hearing in Cardiff crown court as requested by a judge to consider our application for an extension of time for the judicial review application and an interim relief order.
“We had also requested from the court permission to apply for a Judicial review and a protective costs order.
“The hearing was only scheduled to last two hours but the judge cancelled his appointments back in London to hear our case properly as he could see how much this meant not only to us the parents and our child but to everyone else affected. In total the hearing lasted over 4.5 hours.
“We are really sorry and sad to say we were not granted an extension of time so the other applications were also refused.
“The judge believed our application was out of time and provisions have already been set in place as regards to redundancies, redeployment and school admissions which is too late to be reversed.
“The judge did comment that as parents during the hearing we conducted ourselves with dignity and we should hold our heads up high which is what we have done, not only for our son but for the community and wished our son all the best in his future education.
“We would like to thank you everyone who backed us in this last fight to save our school. It was an extremely tough day but we did not give up without a fight.”
It continues onto say: “At the end we were given a costs order of over £6,000 from Wrexham council but with the help of my barrister that has been reduced to £1,200 and the judge has allowed us 4 months to pay it instead of the usual 21 days.
“It was not the ending we had hoped for but the judge felt that the costs that Wrexham Council had submitted were unjustified.”
Cllr Phil Wynn, Lead Member for Education, said: “Whilst it gave me no pleasure to sanction the closure of Ysgol Pontfadog, I believe the decision was the right one to make to ensure the sustainability of primary school education for all children living in the Glyn Ceiriog Valley.
“WCBC has incurred costs in excess of £6,000 to contest the court case held in Cardiff, which is rate-payer money I would have preferred to of seen spent on front-line services.
“Myself and the Leader of the Council met with Glyntraian Community Councillors some weeks ago to reiterate our commitment to working with them to deliver an acceptable use for the school site, once it becomes vacant. That offer still stands.”
Article originally appeared on wrexham.com
The Institute cannot confirm the accuracy of this story or confirm that it presents a balanced view. If you feel this is inaccurate, we would welcome your perspective and evidence that this is the case.