Bridgend planning committee “approves” Island Farm scheme

(Pic: BBC Wales)

Following up from my last post on this issue, Bridgend Council planning committee voted by 11 votes to 7 yesterday to refer the proposed sports village at Island Farm to full council.

This doesn’t mean that it’s got the green light yet, but it is a big step forward.

I doubt the full council will vote against the wishes/recommendations of the planning committee. If the council approves it on July 4th, the plans will then go to the Welsh Assembly for a final rubber stamp. Only then will we know if this is actually going to happen.

I support the development and I support the developers. HD Limited are involved in several projects in Bridgend town centre at the moment – including Elder Yard – which border on civic philanthropy. I doubt many of these projects would’ve got off the ground if they hadn’t have stepped forward.

My support for this scheme though, is more based on “heart” than head.

Bridgend has had its guts ripped out over the last decade. The town centre has a depressingly limited retail choice that leaves it trailing against many other similar sized towns in Wales. We’ve had car-centric developments that are welcome economically, but are soulless and sterile. We’ve lost our professional sporting teams, we’ve lost a lot of jobs down the years as well. Added to this, we’ve had to endure some pretty disgusting stuff in the (UK) national press due to the cluster suicides.

If there’s one thing Bridgend can claim to be, it’s quite an active, relatively youthful, sporting town. We might not have turned out to support our local teams as much as we should have in recent years but the people of Bridgend certainly like to play sport. I can think of more than a dozen rugby teams in a 5 mile radius of Bridgend town and probably as many football teams, golf courses as well.

I don’t really care too much about the stadium itself – whether the town needs a 15,000-seater stadium or not is largely moot. The more important development is the legacy it could leave in terms of facilities for the next generation of athletes. Bridgend is Wales’ sporting conveyor belt and I doubt there are many places that have churned out as many top-class athletes – per head – as Bridgend has.

Not only is a world-class tennis centre on the cards, but a boxing gym, extra sport pitches, indoor training facilities in addition to the science park extension and more open space.

The viability of the proposal is for the developers to worry about. HD Ltd will need to answer some pertinent questions about how all this is going to be financed and sustained. Like it or not, Crusaders have made their bed in Wrexham and I don’t see them coming back. Likewise a 5th Pro12 Welsh region is unlikely unless it is completely privately financed and we know what happened the last time….

At the very least it’s good that for once Bridgend, instead of asking “why?” Is asking “why not?”