PLANS for the redevelopment of St Cyres school as part of the Penarth Learning Community have been approved, with work now set to start immediately.

The multi-million-pound project will see the amalgamation of St Cyres with nearby special schools Erw’r Delyn and Ashgrove, as well as Barry’s Ysgol Maes Dyfan, all based on a single campus and becoming the Penarth Learning Community.

St Cyres headteacher Dr Jonathan Hicks welcomed the news and said that the development would ‘benefit the whole of Penarth’.

And Ashgrove headteacher Chris Britten described the approval as ‘fantastic news’ for the three special schools.

But the decision, made at a planning committee meeting last Thursday (September 6), was greeted with concern by nearby residents, who remain worried about congestion and road safety on Sully Road and at the Merrie Harrier junction.

Around 50 local residents crammed into the public gallery to listen as the plans were debated for over an hour, with councillors warning of potential problems including access, traffic and parking.

However the plans were approved by the committee, with only Cllr Bob Penrose (Sully) voting against the proposals. Dr Hicks, speaking outside the Vale Council civic offices after the meeting, said: "It’s a long overdue facility not just for our pupils and staff and everyone that works there, but for the community too.

"It’s a fantastic resource, and in two years time the people of Penarth are going to have access to a state-of-the-art facility."

Chris Britten, headteacher of Ashgrove School, said he was looking forward to amalgamating with Ysgol Erw’r Delyn and Ysgol Maes Dyfan to form a new special school, given the working title of Ysgol y Dery.

"At the moment, the plan is for the three special schools to move on to the site about a month after St Cyres in November 2014," he said.

"We have gone through a process of designing a school that will cater for all of these youngsters."

He added that he was delighted when planning approval was granted.

"I just wanted to stand up and clap!" he said.

"We have been planning this for three years and it all hung on that evening. It was the best news for the children and their parents."

Speaking after the meeting, members of the Sully Road Residents Association - made up of householders from Cross Common Road, Meadowside, Erw’r Delyn Close and Norris Close - said they were still concerned about problems surrounding access to the school from Sully Road, and traffic at the Merrie Harrier junction.

Erw’r Delyn Close resident Graham Jones said: "The problems will come about later, and they will have to solve it after they have made themselves a laughing stock."

Fellow resident Margaret Davies added: "Even though the plans have been approved, we still think we have to be wary that we don’t have an incident on this road.

"I would hate it if we had to wait for an accident before things are altered."

In a bid to improve road safety, a toucan crossing has already been installed, and the plans include the introduction of speed humps and a 20mph speed limit along Sully Road.

During the meeting, Vale Council Development Control Manager Marcus Goldsworthy attempted to quell their concerns, saying: “It’s known that they had some concern about the use of Sully Road, but those concerns have, to some extent, been addressed by the introduction of traffic calming measures."

He added that the separation of traffic and pedestrian access had also helped, as well as the staggering of school entry times.

As part of the scheme, the ‘Ash Path’ linking Dinas Powys to Penarth has been fenced off to improve safety, although the council has been unable to purchase land from the owner to widen it.

Mr Goldsworthy added that the car parking facilities would also improve the current situation, with cars coming off Sully Road earlier than they do now.

* Work to install a fence around the development site will begin tomorrow (Friday) and finish over the weekend, with building work proper set to start on October 8. It is expected to last two years with the new campus due to be ready by October 2014.