Residents Against Ystrad Barwig Development
Housing developments are becoming a major problem in South Wales Central. Obviously we need to provide housing for those who need it where we can, but…the vision of many politicians in Wales seems to be for Cardiff to keep expanding outwards forever, destroying the green belt and leading to more and more traffic gridlock both in the city, and in the roads leading into it.
This problem is asserting itself in many places: in the Vale, in places like Cowbridge; in the RCT and ‘border vale’ areas; and on the northern and western outskirts of Cardiff itself.
My first official introduction to this problem came with the campaign against a major housing scheme planned for Llantwit Fardre. In July, I was contacted by Councillor Joel James (the only Conservative member of Rhondda Cynon Taf council), and introduced to the residents group who oppose the development.
This led to me visiting the site to have a look for myself at the potential problems (see photos). Then representatives of the local residents came to the steps of the Assembly to present a petition.
After taking down further details of the problems of the scheme, I wrote to the Welsh Government’s Planning Minister, Lesley Griffiths, asking for the housing plan to be ‘called in’ for further scrutiny.
LETTER TO THE PLANNING MINISTER
Dear Cabinet Secretary,
I write to you as one of the list AMs for the South Wales Central region. The matter concerns your role as the Welsh Planning Minister, which I believe is part of your extensive Cabinet brief. It is with regard to the proposed housing development (including an on site school) at Ystrad Barwig Isaf, Crown Hill, Llantwit Fardre, Pontypridd CF38 1BL. I believe it is listed as Application No 15/1295/13.
This is a major development which has proved controversial with local residents. I am told it was approved by RCT council recently by a majority of only a single vote. Both ward members – Jacqui Bunnage (Labour) and Joel James (Conservative) – have steadfastly opposed the scheme. In the Assembly, you may have also heard reservations from the local constituency member, your Labour colleague Mick Antoniw. A petition of 365 names has now been raised opposing the development.
I recently visited the site with some of the residents and, although I am no planning expert, it was clear that there are several well-justified anxieties which, taken together, render the scheme to be, in my opinion, unfeasible. Some of these also appear to breach planning regulations and guidelines, such as RCT council’s own Local Development Plan (LDP).
I am informed by the residents’ group that the site is on a C2 flood plain, so the scheme, if it went ahead, would appear to be in breach of the Welsh Government’s stringent rules on flood plain development. In addition, the original plan from the developers did not include the on-site school. The car park adjacent to the site already has a well-known tendency to flood heavily, and this flooding will doubtless occur with greater frequency and intensity should the housing development proceed.
When RCT council was determining its LDP, this application was refused because it was a Site of Important Nature Conservation (SINC). It is well known locally as the refuge for migrating Canadian wild geese, as well as a host of other wildlife such as bats and great-crested newts. This would all be lost under concrete if the plan is approved.
Human life will also be under considerably greater threat, I believe, if this scheme does go ahead. The only access road – to a development now planned for 427 houses – is dangerously close to a major roundabout. Traffic at peak hours already sometimes ‘backs up’ all the way to this roundabout from the nearest junction, and commuters from the new Ystrad Barwig development would somehow have to slip into this already congested traffic queue during rush hours.
In reality, the number of new homes proposed will give us a probable approximate number of some 800 extra cars being added to the local traffic grid, inevitably causing greater congestion. Already local lanes – such as Creigiau Lane – are being used as ‘rat runs’ by commuters trying to avoid major roads (already blocked up with traffic), and these lanes are often being taken at totally unsuitable speeds, causing risk of injury or even fatality to dog walkers and horse riders alike. I am sure you would agree that the risk to life and limb must be a major consideration in weighing up this scheme.
Forgive me if this letter is not presented in the correct format, as this is the first time I have written to a Cabinet Secretary. But I believe time is of the essence, as I understand that there is only a small time frame left before you decide whether or not to ‘call in’ this development.
I believe that Andrew RT Davies, my fellow regional AM, has already asked you to do this, and I would like to add my own name to this request. I therefore also respectfully ask you to call it in.
Although there is apparently growing demand for more housing in the Cardiff travel-to-work area, and of course we must do our utmost to facilitate new housing where it is feasible, I am afraid that this site does not justify, in my eyes, this level of housing intensity. I am hopeful that the scheme can be sensibly called in, and that ultimately the development does not proceed in its current form.
Other than that, I hope of course that you are settling in well to your new Cabinet portfolio and, away from the demands of your in-tray, are enjoying a pleasant recess.
Good to see the latest update.
The Welsh Government have ‘called in’ the application as they are concerned about the flooding impact.