Colwyn Bay headmaster defends private school’s sale of buildings amid neighbours’ complaints
The headmaster of a Colwyn Bay private school has defended decisions to sell former boarding halls.
One has since become a private mental health unit, while others are set to be turned into a children’s home and care home – despite complaints from nearby residents.
Last week, a Liverpool-based care provider was granted a certificate of lawfulness by Conwy County Council to operate as a children’s home at Netherton Cottage, a former boarding hall belonging to Rydal Penrhos School.
This followed several residents writing to the council to oppose the plans.
Rydal Penrhos ceased taking boarders at the school four years ago and has since sold several of its boarding halls, including Hathaway on Pwllycrochan Avenue, Netherton Cottage on Walshaw Avenue, and The Grange on Oak Drive, which has also been bought by a care company.
Boarding halls fall under C2 use under planning law, as do many care facilities, allowing an easier transition of use following a building’s sale.
Rydal Penrhos owns around £27m of assets in the Colwyn Bay area, employs around 150 staff, and has a wage bill of around £4m a year.
The school says it has recently spent around £250,000 on iPads for its pupils.
Rydal Penrhos executive principal John Waszek said the school would always consider how the sale of a building affects the local community.
“Some of the issues being raised now were raised a year ago, two years ago, and three years ago,” he said.
“I suspect the only reason that it’s being raised now is because of this one planning issue with this property called Netherton Cottage.
“But the big house next to it, which was a boarding house, is now a family home. The school absolutely considers the buildings it sells and the impact on the community
“We have a due diligence process. Although Rydal is an entity in itself, because we are a Methodist school, whenever we sell anything, that has to be signed off by the Methodist church.
“So if we sold a property, we would do our due diligence in two ways. Firstly, it is done in a way that is compliant with the charity commission, for financial reasons, and secondly, we wouldn’t be selling it for something unsuitable for the area.
“We go through a due diligence, and when we’ve agreed that, that then has to be signed by the trustees of the organisation, which has in trust all Methodist schools.
“So there are three levels of due diligence; there’s the financial level of due diligence, to be compliant with the charity commissioners; there is our own due diligence in the sense of what is this property going to be used for, and it still has to be signed off by the trustees of the Methodist Schools Property Company.”
He added: “Because we’ve done our duty, it doesn’t mean everyone is going to like it. But we are comfortable with it, and the idea that we would sell anything that would be inconsiderate to our neighbours is just not on. I will also mention that most of the properties we have sold have gone as private residences.”
But the Local Democracy Reporting Service was contacted by several residents living near Rydal Penrhos who were unhappy with the school – all asked to remain anonymous.
A 65-year-old retired administration worker living on Oakwood complained.
“They’ve sold Netherton Cottage, The Grange, and Hathaway House,” she said.
“It’s sad the school selling all its buildings. The council are very strict with us with conservation, but they are letting anybody do anything.”
Another resident had lived on Pwllycrochan Avenue for over two years.
“There is a loophole in the planning process that these homes can open under C2,” she said.
“I just feel Colwyn Bay as a town is trying to move forward.
“They’ve spent £20m on the prom, trying to make it a family area, young families moving in… and these units for people who have got behaviour problems.
“They (the people in the homes) have got problems. It’s not the children’s fault, but these people are making a profit, putting them in the middle of a family area.”
She said: “I think what Rydal is doing with the sales is absolutely appalling.”
Another retired resident said he had lived on Walshaw Avenue for over 30 years but asked not to be named.
“This is a designated conservation area. Does it mean nothing? They’ve put three care homes in this area,” he said.
“These could be young adults with real problems. Some of them are adult children with real mental problems. Build new institutions on brownfield sites. This is a conservation area. People are up in arms.”
By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter
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