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High Court rejects judicial review application challenging Welsh council plan to close rural school

The High Court has refused a judicial review application seeking to contest Powys County Council's decision to close a small rural school.

Last week (22 June), the High Court refused permission for a judicial review to be heard that argued the decision to close Llanfihangel Rhydithon C.P. School, near the village of Dolau, failed to follow Welsh Government code and breached the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The High Court judge ruled that it was unarguable that the council had failed to apply the presumption against the closure of rural schools required by the Welsh Government's School Organisation Code.

It was also inarguable that the council had failed to conscientiously consider a federation with a nearby school, Llanelwedd Church in Wales School, which is also facing closure.

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In addition, the judge rejected an argument that the council was in breach of its duty under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The High Court dismissed the application and ordered the claimant to pay £5,000 towards the council's costs.

Cllr James Gibson-Watt, Leader of Powys County Council, said: "[The] judgement shows that the council followed the correct procedures that were in line with the Welsh Government's School Organisation Code when the original decision was reached.

"However, Cabinet has decided to revisit the proposal to close Llanfihangel Rhydithon C.P. School as we need to carefully consider the wider implications if the proposal is implemented."

The council's Cabinet will be considering a report about the school on 5 July. It will also be considered by the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee on 29 June.

Cllr Pete Roberts, Cabinet Member for a Learning Powys, said: "This decision will be warmly welcomed by council staff, judicial review in this case was about how officers implemented a decision not the decision itself. I am therefore pleased that the processes followed by staff have been confirmed as compliant and that they can move forward with other proposals with increased confidence."

A number of rural schools in Powys have been earmarked for closure by the local authority as part of a decade-long strategy to "transform" education in the county.

Llanbedr CIW Primary School, another rural Powys school set to close, has also made a judicial review application. Llanbedr's claim is yet to be considered, according to the school's Chair of Governors, Elaine Lusted.

When asked about Llanbedr’s claim, Lusted said it is still on the table.

The council's Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee is also scheduled to discuss Llanbedr's closure in today's meeting.

Adam Carey

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