Councillors to consider plans for £30 million Cynon Valley bypass
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Plans for a £30m bypass in the Cynon Valley are due to go before councillors for discussion but they can’t approve it at the moment.
The council has applied to create a single carriageway from a new roundabout at Croesbychan on the A465 to a new roundabout off the A4059 (the Aberdare bypass) and it will go before the planning committee on Thursday, March 10 for debate.
The proposed scheme is about 2.6 km north-west of Aberdare and lies between the communities of Llwydcoed to the east and Penywaun to the west.
The line of the proposed scheme has also been agreed with the Welsh Government to ensure it aligns with the proposed dualling of the A465, which is now in its early stages of construction.
The proposed scheme connects the A4059 east of Penywaun with an unnamed road leading off the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road to the north.
A proposed new roundabout will be installed south of Croesbychan which will connect to the new link to the ‘Cynon Gateway’.
The report said there is now a need to question if circumstances have changed and that the need, in principle, to provide such new infrastructure still exists.
Despite a shift in thinking away from cars, the report said there would not appear to be any Welsh or UK Government policy that places a moratorium on considering planning proposals for new roads.
But a section 77 call-in request has been made by Welsh Government which means that committee can discuss and debate the application, but it can’t approved it until the directive is no longer in force.
The planning report said it is not possible to say how long this process could take because the nature of each application varies in complexity.
But committee can still choose to refuse the application even if the directive is still in place.
The Welsh Government has recently announced a review of all road building schemes in Wales and the establishment of a road review panel.
The planning report said that while it may have implication for the funding and
construction of this project, councillors are advised there has not been a Welsh Government directive that prohibits councils from determining existing applications.
There are a number of constraints that need to be considered such as historic assets like listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments, environmental assets like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation, European Protected Species or the presence of residential properties.
In this case these include Tir Mawr a Dderi Hir, Llwydcoed SSSI which the route passes through and Bryncarnau Grasslands, Llwydcoed SSSI which is 1.5km to the northeast.
In terms of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs), 12 non-statutory sites lie within the 2km search area and the Upper Cynon
Floodplain SINC lies within the route of the proposed scheme.
The proposed scheme will impact an area of Ancient Woodland which contains trees covered by a Tree Protection Order in the central part of the route to the north of Afon Cynon crossing.
It is not located in a World Heritage Site or a locally designated conservation area.
There are scheduled ancient monuments at Gamlyn Viaduct located adjacent to the scheme and Gellisaf/Llwydcoed Tramroad Bridge 200m east of the southern extents of the proposed scheme.
There are five listed buildings in the area including a war memorial, St James Church, Merthyr Road railway bridge, Gellisaf/Llwydcoed tramroad bridge and Gate Piers and former railway bridge.
There are 27 archaeological assets in the area and the only physical prehistoric asset located within the study area are the earthworks of a settlement at Nant Moel.
The report said the applicant has identified these constraints through an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Environmental Statement and has looked to reduce, wherever possible, any negative impacts.
Although Natural Resources Wales has expressed “significant concerns”, these have been minimised so far as is possible to the point where it is satisfied appropriate mitigation has been provided, the report added.
Another concern remains on the potential of it to impact on the setting of the Brecon Beacons National Park but the report said it is not thought any impact would be so unacceptable as to warrant a recommendation of refusal.
Cadw has some “significant concerns” over the impact of the development on the remains of the Gamlyn Viaduct – which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument although little of the original structure remains.
But the report said Cadw has said these concerns could be mitigated by the applicant incorporating a range of specific measures that would help compensate for the proposal’s impact.
The report said: “It is considered that the applicant has chosen the optimum route for the road that causes the least damage, but committee would need to accept that not building the road is the option that has the fewest consequences, but this must also be balanced against the positive benefits (especially to the residents of Llwydcoed and Penywaun) that the road would bring.
“The applicant has also proposed mitigation measures (so far as is reasonably
possible) that address any negative impacts.
“There are clear benefits in providing the road both environmentally and economically.
“The LDP also makes a number of significant residential and industrial/ mixed use allocations that were predicated on the provision of the road (in conjunction with the dualling of the A465), and while many of these developments have not yet been provided, the need for the road to be provided has not diminished and its construction is considered to be in accord with the development plan in force for the area.”
There have been eight objections to the application and 21 letters of support.
Among the objectors is Llantwit Fardre councillor and South Wales Central MS Joel James.
The case against the road includes the argument that Welsh Government has declared a climate emergency and is not yet on target to meet its commitment.
They also pointed to RCT’s Draft Council Tackling Climate Change Strategy which shares “emission concerns” in particular to meeting carbon neutrality by 2030.
They said the development of a new road is contradictory to the commitment and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act , that it will adversely impact on an SSSI, will impact negatively on bats, result in the loss of farming land and ancient woodland and increase noise and pollution
Other objections included that there’s no need for an additional road as commuting habits have changed, the money would be better spent on other public services, that it would be detrimental to Aberdare town centre, that it should be rejected or delayed until the outcome of the roads review is known and that the former Mayhew Chicken Factory for use as a metro station is more environmentally friendly and will mean they don’t need to spend £30m which would be better spent on public services and increasing electric charging point provision.
Hirwaun and Penderyn Community Council raised concerns and objected to the proposal as it out of accord with various acts and plans, because of the impact on the SSSI, Special Landscape Area, a SINC and local wildlife and the impact of the road on the peace and tranquillity of the area and that the £30m cost for the road cannot be justified.
Among the supporters of the application are the Llwydcoed Community Action Group, Councillors Ann Crimmings, Gareth Jones, Helen Boggis and the Cynon Valley MS Vikki Howells
They said the bypass is urgently needed as the volume of traffic (currently) is too great for the Llwydcoed village.
They also said the village is used as a short-cut, backlogs of traffic occur at certain times of the day, the existing roads of Llwydcoed are too narrow and not fit for purpose and the weight limit on the bridge is not adhered to.
They said pollution in the village is unacceptable due to emissions, traffic travels are far too fast in the village so it is dangerous for children and the elderly to cross the road safely, large vehicles ignore the signs and travel through the village regardless and the construction of the road will bring economic benefits to Llwydcoed.
They also made reference to the positive comments from the planning inspector about the scheme.
They called for sympathetic tree planting, noise attenuation and speed control systems to be brought in.
Other arguments in favour that have been made are that the scheme is not about increasing road capacity, this is very much about dealing with displaced traffic through the A465 Dualling scheme and safeguarding the health and wellbeing of residents.
They acknowledged there may be some loss of flora and fauna but said that the current route for heavy vehicles and commuters to the A465 is via Penywaun (and Llwydcoed) and this is untenable.
They said the current situation is detrimental to highway safety and developments at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun with additional pupils attending has
led to traffic chaos on the estate and tailbacks on Hirwaun Road with
associated air pollution associated with stationary traffic.
They said the road is needed to protect the health and well-being of the residents of Penywaun.
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