Gorseinon 'village green' school plan opposed by residents
Plans to build a new primary school on a park in Gorseinon, Swansea, could be blocked if an application to register the land as a village green succeeds.
A public inquiry starts on Tuesday and is expected to last for three days.
It will consider the application put forward by campaigners who are opposed to building the school on Parc-y-Werin.
Residents will have to prove to an independent inspector the land is used for recreation while Swansea council called the inquiry "frustrating".
Currently, Gorseinon's primary and infant schools are based on separate sites but the local authority wants to unite them under one roof.
While plans for the £6m Parc-y-Werin development were approved, some residents claimed it is the only public space with sports pitches in the town.
Former Wales football international Leighton James grew up using the park and helped collect 3,000 names on a petition.
Gorseinon town councillor Claire Lewis said they did not want to stop the school going ahead but wanted it to be on a different site.
"They're building a lot around the area and taking a lot of green spaces and we want to protect the green spaces we've got," she added.
According to the plans, about 6.5% of the park will be taken up by the new school building itself, with new pitches being created for the school which will also be available for the community to use.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: "It's really frustrating because when you talk to the children, they really want their new school and they can't understand why we are not getting on and giving them the new school. The parents are frustrated and we are frustrated.
"I understand people being concerned about park areas and wanting to maintain and retain open spaces, and we're all about that. But in this day and age you've got to try to deliver the best school in the best environment for children."
For village green status to be achieved, campaigners will have to prove the land has been used by the community for recreation "as of right" [without permission from the council] for at least 20 years.
If the application is rejected, the council said it would try to start building the school as quickly as possible.