Rumney Recreation Ground new build school plan shelved
Cardiff council has shelved controversial plans to build a new high school on Rumney Recreation Ground.
Campaigners who have fought the plan since it was announced four years ago claim the council has spent £500,000 "against the wishes of the people".
The local authority has blamed a drop in funding from the Welsh Government for a rethink on replacing two schools.
The Welsh Government said it was disappointed at the decision, based on "funding that was never agreed".
Cardiff council has asked its officers to come with an alternative option for the planned closure of high schools at Rumney and Llanrumney in the east of the city.
It had proposed a new 1,500-pupil school for 11 to 16-year-olds on the recreation ground.
It also pledged to redevelop Eastern Leisure Centre and spend all proceeds from the sale of land of the two existing schools on the one it wanted to build.
But the scheme was opposed by local residents who raised an 8,000-name petition and formed campaign group Rumney Recreation and Eastern Leisure (Rreel).
They were backed by the Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael and AM Vaughan Gething.
The council submitted a planning application for the £22m Eastern High School in June.
Announcing the scheme had been dropped, the council said a reduction in the amount of money available from the Welsh Government had forced the rethink.
It said projects that could have been completed at once would now have to be phased, while school improvements would now take longer.
Council leader Rodney Berman said the affordability of the Eastern High School project had always been its main barrier.
He said: "A number of factors have changed since we brought forward the plans in 2007 and it makes sense to now reexamine the proposals.
"This gives us the opportunity to consider another option which will allow us to phase the creation of a new-build school on the site of Rumney High School."
The council said the increased demand for Catholic and Welsh-medium education in the east of the city and the reduction of demand for an English-medium high school meant the proposed high school may not be needed.
Opponents said the council had previously ignored the option of siting the new school on either of the existing schools sites or at another location in St Mellons.
Councillor Heather Joyce resigned as chair of the temporary governing body of the proposed new school in protest when the plans were submitted. She remains chair of governors at Llanrumney High School.
She said: "I am overjoyed that the recreation ground has been saved but I'm disappointed that they're not giving us a new school.
"Having been promised a '21st Century school' for the last four years, all they want to do now is to do a re-fit. I think our children deserve better than that."
The Welsh Government announced in the summer that councils would have to find 50% of school modernisation costs and not 30% as previously.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "In approving the original proposals for school reorganisation in east Cardiff, the minister was satisfied that this would provide a brand new education facility to the area, using improved buildings and facilities to offer education which is at least as good quality as that currently available, and potentially better.
"It is disappointing that these plans are now being reconsidered on the basis of changes for funding that was never agreed for this project.
"Our 21st Century schools programme was never intended to be a 'big bang' approach, but a long-term programme of investment.
"It is now up to the local authority to consider what action is necessary to ensure that learners in these communities have access to an education provision of the highest possible quality."