Scaffolding has kept pupils out of their playground for four years

£495,000 has been spent to protect children in listed building, with no end date in sight

SCAFFOLDING costing £495,000 at a Cathays primary school has kept pupils out of their playground for four years.

“The scaffolding and building work have significantly impacted on the learning experience of the children,” said Abigail Beacon, headteacher of St Monica’s C.I.W. primary school.

“We recognise the scaffolding has to be there, it keeps everybody safe. There were problems with the Bath stone on the building, and it has to be stabilised then reconstructed,” said Mrs Beacon.

In 2021, the children wrote letters to Cathays councillor Sarah Merry and Cardiff council invoking their “right to play” from the United Nations Rights of the Child.

The scaffolding covers a large part of their play area, making it difficult for them to play outside. 

Mrs Beacon said that since the letters, communication from the council has massively improved but it was once very slow.

“I think the children’s letters, the members of the Senedd that got involved and other people that been supporting the school, are the reason for improvement.” 

 The children were given alternative play areas and, in recent weeks, new outdoor clothing so they can be taken off site. 

“The local authority has paid for outdoor clothing for the children as well so that we can take them off site without getting drenched to the skin.

“The council have been supporting the children more. I have a play specialist once a week and the children go to regular visits up to the park so that they can have free play. Cathays cemetery has been brilliant, they have given us access to their chapels,” said Mrs Beacon.

The scaffolding was put up outside St Monica’s, Cathays Library and Gladstone Primary School four years ago – and has been the cause of several complaints among Cathays residents. 

Cathays Library

As of September 2022, £495,000 has been spent on installing and maintaining the scaffolding. The historical listed status and required permissions from the council’s planning department led to the delays in work starting on the site, an FOI request revealed.

Claire Batten Watkins has for six years owned Teacups & Cupcakes, which faces the scaffolding outside St Monica’s. She regularly speaks to the parents and nearby residents.

“I deal with the teachers and some of the parents and they were saying how hard it is on the children as a lot of their playground has been taken over by the scaffolding,” she said. 

Local businesses and residents are also affected.

“When they started doing the cycle lane as well, it felt like you were working and living on a building site. It caused a lot of conversation with the customers from people asking if we knew anything about it,” said Mrs Barren Watkins.

Prior to the scaffolding, Cathays Library was a hub for seasonal events. After the installation and with the pandemic, these could not resume. Members of the community tried to fund-raise insurance money to make these events possible but have not succeeded.

“We usually have a little Cathays spring fair that goes into the playground. That got delayed because of scaffolding and Covid. There is usually a Christmas tree, but they couldn’t put it up,” said Mrs Barren Watkins. 

An exact date for when the building work will end has not been published, but headteacher Mrs Beacon said the issue was likely to get worse before it gets better.

“They need to put a different type of scaffolding up to actually do work on the building. The scaffolding up at the moment is just a protective measure,” said Mrs Beacon.