PLANS to add an extension to accommodate extra pupils at a special school that opened 10 years ago have been given the green light. 

Crownbridge School, in Croesyceiliog, Cwmbran educates children and young people, aged two to 19, with severe learning difficulties and opened in 2012 with a capacity for 80 pupils. 

However the school is currently having to use demountable classrooms as it is some 15 to 20 pupils over capacity, Torfaen County Borough Council’s planning committee was told. 

The authority has applied for planning permission for an extension, to boost capacity to 130 pupils, and to relocate its multi use games area to another part of the site which is currently open grassland and was formerly part of the nearby Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School’s playing fields. 

The work will be 75 per cent funded by the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools programme with the borough council meeting the balance. 

The planning application for the construction work was approved by the council’s November planning committee which was told concerns from residents of The Pastures, a residential street neighbouring the school, over potential noise, and how ecology could be improved have been addressed. 

Planning officer Mia McAndrew said though the application would result in the loss of green, open space the committee was recommended, on balance, to approve the application. 

She said: “The school is a really big benefit and a positive development that will provide really important classrooms, it’s a special school, for special educational needs, and there are not many of those around. It is already over capacity and it is a really good opportunity for the council to get this funding from the Welsh Government.” 

She said the grassland was not considered to be of “high ecological importance” by the council’s ecology officer but mitigation measures include hedgehog gaps, in an “acoustic fence” – that will separate the multi use games area from neighbouring houses – new hedgerows and bat and sparrow boxes.  

“The mitigation put in place is considered acceptable,” said Ms McAndrew who explained the loss of the open space is also considered acceptable. 

She said the extension will have slopping roofs as problems such as leaks have been reported with the school’s existing flat roofs. 

Llanyrafon Labour councillor David Williams said he hadn’t received any contact from residents in his ward, where the neighbouring properties, are about the application, but said: “It’s a little unfortunate perhaps some of the expansion capacity wasn’t built in the first place, but there we are.” 

He suggested willow should be planted at the south of the site to address drainage with the area known to flood. The committee was told concerns over drainage, raised by Natural Resources Wales, will require a construction management plan, while a separate sustainable drainage application will also have to be submitted. 

Upper Cwmbran member Steven Evans said he was “astonished” the plans don’t include solar panels. 

The Labour councillor said: “It’s astonishing we seem to be doing these new buildings and not have these climate savings, we should be leading on this.” 

He also asked for a clarification on why the council is building on green, open space despite the climate emergency, a decision he thought members of the public may question. 

A noise report, assessing the impact from the multi use games area, will also have to be submitted to the council within six months of it coming into use and a noise management plan drawn up if required.