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Council challenged over plans to build homes on common land

13 Jul 2023 3 minute read
The area of Clyne Common where 56 affordable homes have planning consent. Photo by Friends of West Cross Common

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Swansea Council has been asked to quash planning consent for 56 affordable homes on common land which campaigners say is home to a diverse range of species.

Friends of West Cross Common, in tandem with the Gower Society, has handed a letter to the council under a process called judicial review, setting out its grounds for challenge.

The council’s planning committee approved the 56-home scheme on Clyne Common by six votes to four at a meeting in March. The two-hectare plot, north of Chestnut Avenue and west of Mulberry Avenue, West Cross, is also a designated site of important nature conservation.

There were around 60 letters of objection but council planning officers recommended approval, saying that the development would comply with and improve the character of the land, improve access to the wider common, and provide much-needed affordable homes in the west of Swansea.


Friends of West Cross Common and the Gower Society allege that the council didn’t follow its own procedures in granting planning permission, and they are worried that building on common land would set a precedent.

Mike Crafer, from Friends of West Cross Common, said: “We fully appreciate the need for social housing in Swansea but this seems to have over-ridden all other considerations.

“This part of the common is an integral part of Gower’s commons which stretch from Rhossili in the west to Swansea Bay in the east and represents an irreplaceable treasure.”

Mike and Carol Crafer and Penny Cridge (left), of Friends of West Cross Common. Pic by Friends of West Cross Common

Carol Crafer, who has been coordinating wildlife surveys of the common, described the site as “a fascinating mosaic” of wet and dry heathland, scrub and wet woodland which supported a diverse range of plants and animals.

“A number of protected endangered or vulnerable species are found here,” she said. “Birds saturate the air with a symphony of song.”

The applicants, Ashgrove and Coastal Housing, will have to exchange common land – a process dealt with by the Welsh Government – before any work could start, and also submit a landscape and ecological management plan to the council for approval.


Gordon Howe, of the Gower Society, said he felt the proposed exchange land was unsuitable, and “encroachment” onto the commons could be replicated by other developers.

Mr Howe claimed peat – a valuable carbon sink – would be lost if the 10 bungalows, 10 flats and 36 houses were built and that the risk of surface water flooding would increase for nearby properties. The application, he claimed, had been “rushed through without sufficient thought”.

A spokesman for the council said: “We are aware of the potential legal challenge and will respond in due course.”

At the March planning meeting, an agent for the applicants said there had been no objections from statutory and specialist consultees and that the scheme would result in “critically-needed” affordable housing.

Also addressing the committee on the day was West Cross councillor Rebecca Fogarty, who said she would have objected if the homes were to be sold for profit on the open market.

She said the area needed social housing on this scale, but added: “However, the committee should be under no illusion that this is an easy decision. The ecological value of the site is significant.”

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