Controversial Tondu housing development decision made & more

Here’s a summary of the key points from the March 2018 meeting of Bridgend Council’s planning committee (webcast – here).

The main item on the agenda was a contested development at Tondu (pdf), proposed to include:

  • Up to 450 homes.
  • 1,000 sqm of business space.
  • A mini-bypass linking A4063 Maesteg Road to the roundabout near Lidl.
  • Two attenuation ponds, a “village green” and equipped play area.

The detailed planning application is yet to be submitted, it’s only an outline plan at the moment.

The site was included for housing development in the Local Development Plan (LDP), but the proposed development has been strongly opposed by the local community, Newcastle Higher, Ynysawdre and Llangynwyd Lower community councils, local borough councillors and AMs representing Ogmore.

Some of the concerns raised include traffic problems on Maesteg Road, concerns from Welsh Water over drainage and water supply, the close proximity to a number of listed monuments and the former Tondu Ironworks and pressure on local services – particularly GPs.

The Coal Authority also had concerns about possible coal mining legacy on the site and demanded proper site investigations.

Officers recommended the outline planning application be approved subject to a Section 106 agreement, which would include:

  • A minimum of 10% affordable housing (45 homes).
  • A contribution of £1.62million towards local schools.
  • The cost of the mini-bypass falling on developers, plus a contribution of £312,000 to other local road and walking/cycling improvements.
  • Full technical modelling for drinking water, drainage and any former mine workings.
  • A five-year commitment to replace any tree, hedge retained in the development that is removed or dies during that time.
  • A full ecological survey to determine the presence of protected species.

The final decision, of course, rested with councillors.

What did councillors & officers say?

The session started with a number public speakers – including two county councillors.

Firstly, Cllr. Tim Thomas (Plaid, Ynysawdre) said it would be wrong to ignore the opposition to the application, even if the decision should be made on material factors. £1.6million wasn’t enough to expand school places at Tondu Primary, while the route to the new Brynmenyn Primary is too poor and the road around Tondu bridge requires major improvements before house-building starts.

Secondly, Cllr. James Radcliffe (Plaid, Aberkenfig) cited statistics that said BCBC councillors haven’t overturned any officer recommendations despite having the power to do so. The scheme needs to be properly supported by infrastructure and he was willing to work with developers and the community to come up with a scheme that satisfied everyone. The number of houses proposed is also 18%-20% higher than allowed in the LDP.

Councillors were then reminded by the Chief Planning Officer, Jonathan Parsons, that while they have the power to reject applications on “material planning grounds”, any decision they make is challengable. If an appeal is then lost, BCBC would be liable for costs.

Cllr. Ken Watts (Ind, Newton) wanted to know the impact refusing the application based on the increase in the number of houses compared to the LDP would have? He also questioned the validity of a claim that the scheme wouldn’t impact the environment – as it was pretty obvious it would.

He was told the LDP figure didn’t matter so much the development remains under average housing densities despite being above the LDP figure.

Cllr. Janice Lewis (Lab, Bryncoch) asked where the Section 106 schools money would be spent? Would it go outside the catchment area?

She was told there are currently surplus places in the area – particularly since the new Brynmenyn Primary opened – but the officer admitted the development would put pressure on those places beyond 2020.

Cllr. David Lewis (Lab, Sarn) had particular concerns about the amount of traffic flowing through the Tondu junction; “cars aren’t going to go away” despite the focus on walking and cycling, with queues stretching to Coytrahen and Glanrhyd Hospital. He was also concerned it was referred to a brownfield site when it’s almost always been woodland.

Cllr. Amanda Williams (Ind, Coity) has queries on the type of commercial buildings proposed and timescales for their development, how the proposed emergency access would be maintained and also wanted assurances on when open space/playgrounds would be built.

In terms of the latter, she was told they would be enshrined in the legal agreement, while emergency accesses of this type are often padlocked with the emergency services cutting it off as and when needed.

Cllr. Carolyn Webster (Con, Newcastle) believed the proposed road improvements could be a positive and the link road may support development further up the Llynfi valley.

There was an electronic vote and councillors voted 9-2 in favour with one abstention.

Other news:

  • An application to demolish a number of garages at Tairfelin in Wildmill to make space for a construction compound – as part of an ongoing housing renovation project on the estate – was approved, despite 3 objections being received from local residents.
  • Western Power Distribution was granted permission to expand and upgrade a major 132 KW substation off Great Western Avenue in Pendre, which is said might improve its appearance with future residential development at Coity Sidings in mind.
  • Councillors approved designating Preswylfa Court (the former Cottage Homes) as a conservation area – more details here.
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