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Education officials criticised for failure to seek funds from developers

The failure of education officials to indicate whether housing developers should be providing money to schools in Wrexham has been called ‘a scandal’.

It comes after Wrexham Council’s education department did not respond when consulted on proposals to build 13 new homes on the site of the former Nightingale House Hospice store on Rhosnesni Lane.

The proposals to knock down and replace the building, which is near to both Rhosnesni High School Borras Park Community Primary School, were approved by planning committee members yesterday.

However, politicians said they were unhappy at the education authority’s repeated failure to notify them whether funding for improvements should be included as a requirement.

The committee’s vice-chair, Cllr Marc Jones said: “I don’t think that it’s acceptable that we’re not getting a response from education on this.

“Maybe it’s something we do need to stress that at a time when schools are looking at cut backs, to not even respond isn’t acceptable.

“We’re told that there’s a crying need for extra schools, well this would make a contribution towards that.”
 
Ponciau councillor Paul Pemberton also expressed his concerns about the lack of response from education officers.

He suggested the form sent to them should be simplified to have a tick box to indicate whether or not a financial contribution was required.

He said: “Surely the education department can say yes or no.

“There’s so much uncertainty, there’s somebody there not picking this up and it’s very worrying because the amount of times it’s happened is unreal over the last five or six years.”

Cllr Paul Roberts added: “How many times have we sat on this committee and there’s been no response from education? It’s a scandal.”

In response, the committee’s chair Mike Morris said he agreed with the points raised and would feed them back to the department.

He said there was a risk of planning applications not being determined within the set timescale because of the length of time it was taking them to respond.

Cllr Morris said: “This has been in since July so it’s almost six months, and as we all know we’re supposed to determine in eight weeks or the applicant can go for non-determination.

“We can’t really wait forever but a note from education to say ‘in this instance we don’t want something’ or ‘yes we do’ would be helpful.

“I think it’s something the lead member for planning and myself will take up with the relevant head of department again.”

The proposals to build 13 detached and semi-detached houses were approved despite one neighbour speaking out against them as he claimed they would overlook his property.
However, councillors unanimously voted in favour after being told it would not represent an overdevelopment of the site.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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