Live From Angel St. – October Planning Committee

The monthly meeting of Bridgend Council’s Development Control Committee was held yesterday afternoon. As usual, the webcast is available here.

Today, I’ve decided to focus on two significant planning applications in the Bryntirion and Llangewydd areas of Bridgend town.
The Committee also discussed equally controversial proposals for new food units at the Bridgend Retail Park (near Halfords – pdf), which is plagued with traffic problems. It was rejected by 9 votes to 6, so will have to go back to committee in November so officers can properly outline reasons for refusal.

Firstly, proposals by Penybont FC to expand facilities at the Kymco Stadium off Llangewydd Road (pdf).

In addition to expanding their women’s and youth teams, the club have long had ambitions to be promoted to the Welsh Premier League – appointing legendary former Llanelli and Port Talbot Town striker Rhys Griffiths as player-manager in the summer. Though, as usual, they’re struggling on the field at the moment.

The plans would bring them up to the minimum WPL requirements and include: an increase in ground capacity to more than 500 seats, TV gantry, clubhouse extension, new turnstiles and improved road access and parking.

The problem is the ground is a bit “out of the way” and slap bang in the middle of a relatively quiet residential area.

A public speaker, and nearby resident, described how he visited neighbouring properties and collected signatures opposing the plans. Most of the concerns were around noise, parking and traffic arrangements, so he welcomed the increase in on-site parking, but this was still insufficient for increased use.

A Planning Officer outlined the proposal, then – in a highly unusual case – said the Highways Department believe the new car park is too big. Officers will also seek to widen the entrance and provide yellow lines on Llangewydd Road to encourage people to park within the grounds.

Cllr. Cheryl Green (Lib Dem, Bryntirion Laleston & Merthyr Mawr) knows the parking problems are “appalling”; the streets are narrow and people often park illegally. Sunday is one of the most popular days at the ground, when there’s no bus services. The bigger car park is essential, and she put forward an idea of introducing a one-way system around Park View and Mount Pleasant.

A Highways Officer said Penybont FC haven’t provided enough information to justify a larger car park. Under BCBC’s own parking guidelines, the maximum size of the car park is 77 spaces instead of the proposed 160.

Cllr. Janice Lewis (Lab, Bryncoch) pointed out that the plans didn’t include any specific area for coach parking. Where would they park? The Highways Officer said this oversight wasn’t acceptable to the Highways Department and a new scheme will take into account the need for parking spaces for coaches.

Cllr. John Spanswick (Lab, Brackla) supported what’s been said on parking. Having guidelines is fine, but there’s a “need for common sense”. Sometimes the Committee are presented with applications that don’t provide enough parking, so when the opposite happens it should be greeted it with open arms. The Highways Officer said the standards were there for a reason and that if the car park were too big, too many people might go there and that would also cause congestion.

Cllr. Gary Thomas (Lab, Bryncethin) said it was impossible to go there on a matchday, with people parking everywhere. This will only increase, so to suggest a cap on extra parking places to 40 was “not on”. A Planning Officer explained the new parking scheme could be flexible and include coach parking, so the number of possible spaces is “still up for grabs”, with the final number likely to be in between 77 and 160.

Cllr. Jeff Tildesley (Ind, Cornelly) said it was pointless discussing the application if the parking arrangements will change. He lives near football ground, and games and training take place all week round. He therefore believes the maximum number of parking spaces need to be provided to fit the number of people you would expect to go there.

Councillors agreed to defer/delay a decision onthe application until further information is provided on a new parking scheme.

Secondly, outline proposals for 165 homes and apartments off Heol-Ty-Maen (pictured above) in the Barnes Avenue area (pdf). In addition to a foot/cycle route linking the development to Westward Close and Westward Place, it’s one of the few new greenfield sites allocated for housing in Bridgend’s Local Development Plan (LDP) – so understandably it’s going to be controversial.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s not the full planning application with street layouts etc. (which will come at another time). It’s to establish the principle of building houses there.

Speaking in objection, Cllr. Charles Smith (Lab, Llangewydd & Brynhyfred) said he “reluctantly inherited”the council’s LDP position when elected in a by-election, but he’ll speak out again when the full application is submitted and will argue that the application should be the only development allowed in the area. He described the developer’s traffic surveys as “OK”, but largely inadequate as it overlooks serious problems with rat-runs. There are better access options and, if approved, the scheme needs a substantial programme of traffic calming measures and a blanket 20mph speed limit for Barnes Avenue.

A Planning Officer reiterated that the site’s been allocated for housing in the adopted LDP, though the scheme is smaller than was originally planned for. The applicant will also seek to retain trees on the site. In terms of traffic, they’re looking at traffic calming measures around Barnes Avenue and improving traffic lights at the A473/Bryngolau/Broadlands junction.

Cllr. Cheryl Green said something “needs doing” to Barnes Avenue, but focused on schools. There are financial contributions towards extra primary school places in the draft S106 agreement, but no mention of extra places at Bryntirion Comprehensive. Also, there’s no single primary school serving the development and little room for expansion at Cefn Glas Infants School – the closest to the site.

An Officer said there was no shortage of secondary school places, but the developers intent to provide £245,000 for the two infant schools in the area and £195,000 for Llangewydd Junior School.

Cllr. John Spanswick welcomed the high quality development and commitments to open space, but he didn’t want drainage channels being considered open space or play areas even if they’re part of the landscape due to hidden dangers. There needs to be open space provision on site – something a Planning Officer confirmed was the developer’s intention.

Cllr. Cleone Westwood (Lab, Cefn Glas) was concerned we could end up with a “situation like Broadlands” where the final total of houses was much greater than was originally planned for. Also, the two entrances to Barnes Avenue were already dangerous.

Cllr. Pam Davies (Lab, Bryntiron Laleston & Merthyr Mawr) said houses shouldn’t be built to the detriment of existing residents. Changing the lighting sequences at the A473/Bryngolau junction would just encourage people to use rat-runs; there needs to be an alternative entrance and exit.

Cllr. David Lewis (Lab, Penyfai) believed developers were seeking “the easy option” on access, and he was worried it could make problems on Cefn Glas Road and through Penyfai worse – routes used by schoolchildren – due to two other housing developments at the former Ysgol Bryn Castell.

A Planning Officer said it was true the applicant could come back with plans for more houses, but the nature of site and need to protect woodland restricts the developable area, so there’s little risk of over-development. Alternative access options could end up going through woodland, or force people in and out through a cul de sac on Westwood Close.

The Committee Chair, Cllr. Marlene Thomas (Lab, Llangeinor), made a rare intervention by saying traffic was a problem all councillors face with homes now having multiple cars. However, a lack of housing is a bigger problem and things had to be put in a bigger context. We can’t expect conveniences without problems.

After a show of hands the outline application was approved.