Sunnyside development approved by councillors

Yesterday, Bridgend Council’s planning committee held its monthly meeting, which was dominated by proposals for housing and a new healthcare centre at the former Sunnyside offices in Bridgend – more details here. The meeting was webcast (link).

Substandard roads

The impact on traffic was key to the discussion.

Cllr David White (Lab, Newcastle) said he’d been contacted 200 times about the development and believed it was too dense. Independent Bridgend town councillor, Cllr. David Unwin, said surrounding roads and junctions were substandard, while a member of the public believed the estimated 1,100 visitors a day to the health centre would impact road safety.

A health representative spoke in favour. The new healthcare centre would be a massive improvement on existing facilities and would create an environment more suited to new technologies. A representative from the developer, Linc, cited Bridgend’s long waiting list for social housing and added that the density of the development was appropriate for a town/city centre location.

In response to a request from members, the Director of Planning reminded councillors and the public that issues not material to the discussion include property prices, health authority policies and alternative uses for the site.

Cllr. Amanda Williams (Ind, Coity) raised concerns that a key traffic assessment wasn’t made available to committee members, despite being cited by the developer, and they shouldn’t make a decision without that information in front of them. To that, the Director said it was common practice for planning professionals to share information with each other and it “wasn’t sinister”.

Planning policy is “to discourage car use”

Cllr. Williams questioned the logic of assumptions that patients would travel by foot or bicycle, justifying a small car park; if a patient is ill, surely they’re more likely to drive or be driven? She was told that while it’s true that ill patients might not walk, not everyone going there will “be at death’s door”.

Cllr. John Spanswick (Lab, Brackla) had mixed feelings. While the healthcare centre and social housing were welcome, this development was trying to squeeze too much into a small area. He also believed an internal courtyard – accessible to the public – would “design in crime” and become a loitering area. It was also unusual for a development like this to be reliant on adjacent car parks – in this case at Bridgend Life Centre.

Cllr. David Lewis (Lab, Sarn) believed this was a case of putting houses before infrastructure, again citing inadequate parking.

An officer said the police were supportive of the proposals and surrounding properties provided natural surveillance.

The Director of Planning added that Welsh Government planning policy discourages car use by making it less convenient; there were no longer minimum parking standards but maximum parking standards and likely to be no parking standards in the future. The Civic Offices only had 40 parking spaces for around 800 people working there – though other councillors pointed out that many staff parked in the streets affected by this development.

Fire service “not a statutory consultee”

Cllr. Carolyn Webster (Con, Newcastle) said she’s never seen so many objections. She raised Natural Resource Wales’ suggestion flood risks can’t be overcome, as well as air quality issues on Park Street – said to be caused by traffic congestion and the fact Park Street is on an incline. Also, the Glan-y-Parc/Park Street junction wasn’t a safe exit for 1,200 vehicles a day.

A highways officer said the Glan-y-Parc junction was expected to run with 30% reserve capacity after the development; air pollution wasn’t the fault of that junction but Park Street/A473 – which could be improved in the future.

Cllr. Matthew Voisey (Con, Oldcastle) described it as “one of the most difficult applications” he’s seen this term, summing up opposition concerns as being related to design criteria (particularly communal recycling), flood risk & drainage, air quality, traffic & parking. Another issue raised was the impact on Bridgend Fire Station.

A planning officer said South Wales Fire Service weren’t statutory consultees and didn’t make any comment on the application.

Cllr. Voisy added that if there’s an obstruction, firefighters will just drive through and drivers would be billed for damage to fire engines; parking in the area, therefore, needed to be properly enforced and controlled – comments echoed by Cllr. Mike Kearn (Lab, Pyle).

Cllr. Keith Edwards (Ind, Maesteg East) believed the healthcare centre would provide great facilities unavailable to standard GP practices. He called for a drop-off area for people with mobility problems so the person driving them can move on to park somewhere else; a planning officer mentioned an area for rubbish collection which could be used informally in that way.

Vote

The application went to an electronic vote, which was approved by 8 votes to 2.

  • For: Cllr. Keith Edwards, Cllr. Richard Granville (Lab, Pyle), Cllr. Mike Kearn, Cllr. David Lewis, Cllr. John Spanswick, Cllr. Roz Stirman (Ind, Llangeinor), Cllr. Gary Thomas (Lab, Bryncethin), Cllr. Matthew Voisey
  • Against: Cllr. Carolyn Webster, Cllr. Amanda Williams

Just after the vote, a protestor (presumably in the public gallery) started shouting. From what I can make out they said, “If you come back in two years it’ll be a disaster!….Absolute disgrace!” and suggesting a medical centre and social housing on the same site was too much.

The Chair, Cllr. Gary Thomas, told them they’d just had a 2-hour discussion and a democratic vote had been carried. When the protestor refused to be quiet, the Chair suspended the meeting.

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