Developers argue major station and business park should still go ahead despite new planning guidance
Ted Peskett, Local democracy reporter
Advocates for Cardiff Parkway Railway Station have said the scheme represents an exception to new planning guidance which places greater importance on the environment.
A Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) hearing on the proposed development, earmarked for land south of St Mellons Business Park, was reopened on Tuesday January 16.
Planning inspector, Tony Thickett, heard arguments for and against the Hendre Lakes development which, if approved, will also include a business park to be build on a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
Legal representatives of Cardiff Parkway Developments Ltd and Cardiff Council at the hearing said there aren’t any alternative locations in the area to build the scheme which will improve inter city transport and provide job opportunities.
However, those opposed to the scheme argued that there is no need to build it on the Rumney and Peterstone SSSI and that there is alternative office space in and around the city already which isn’t being used.
Co-chair of Friends of the Gwent Levels, Dr Diana Callaghan, said: “We do question the whole issue of need in terms of supply.”
Dr Callaghan said that based on research she had carried out, there is 39,000sqm of unallocated employment land at Cardiff Gate and 10,000sqm of available grade A office space in Cardiff city centre.
Julia Barrell, a member of the Cardiff Civic Society who was present at the meeting, conceded that “a railway station is a good idea”, but said: “I think it would be very hard to argue that the business park is wholly exceptional… it definitely doesn’t need to be built on a SSSI.”
Plans for the Hendre Lakes development were initially approved by Cardiff Council in April 2022 before being called in by the Welsh Government as a development of national significance.
PEDW oversaw a planning hearing on the scheme in July 2023 and the inspector at that time, Mr Thickett, submitted his report to Welsh Ministers in September.
However, changes were made to Welsh planning policy in October which placed greater emphasis on the protection of green spaces and biodiversity.
The Welsh Government decided that following the change to Planning Policy Wales, which also includes a strengthened approach to the protection of SSSIs, there was a need to open a new hearing.
One of the key factors being looked at by the planning inspector was whether the Hendre Lakes development represents an exception to this new policy approach.
Dr Callaghan said: “For Friends of the Gwent Levels, ‘wholly exceptional’ must take into account that this will produce very high levels of carbon emissions that are not compensated for by the plans for biodiversity on the site.”
As part of their proposed scheme, Cardiff Parkway Developments Ltd has proposed compensation land to offset the loss of reens and ditches which provide habitats for a number of species.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said the development will impact the Rumney and Peterstone SSSI.
However, they also said that if Welsh Ministers are minded to approve the scheme they “consider that the applicant’s proposed mitigation and compensation measures would be appropriate”.
An NRW spokesperson added: “These measures would need to be secured through planning conditions and a legal agreement.”
Speaking on behalf of Cardiff Council at the hearing, Emyr Jones argued that there will be a net benefit to the SSSI as a result of the development as more land is being offered than what will be lost.
Mr Jones also pointed to the South East Wales Transport Commission, also known as the Burns Commission, which recommends the construction of six new railway stations between Cardiff and the River Severn to help reduce congestion on the M4.
He said that the land south of St Mellons Business Park was allocated for employment and transport hub uses in the council’s local development plan (LDP) in 2016, adding: “Of course, the protection of SSSI as a matter of policy has strengthened since then, but as confirmed in the statement of common ground, we have the net benefits of the SSSI in the long run and therefore this condition is met.
“If you want to comply with the [Burns Commission and the LDP] there has to be a new strategic station on the main line between Cardiff and Newport.
“The main line crosses various SSSIs.
“There is no point in having a new… station too close to Cardiff Central [and] no point in having it close to Newport.”
Residents living in the area are also divided n their opinion of the development.
Alun Williams, who has lived in St Mellons for three years, said a new railway station would significantly cut journey times into the city centre and improve employment prospects for locals, adding that he is concerned about the opportunities on offer in the area for his grandsons.
He said: “I would also like them to have access to inter city trains. It is not too much to ask.”
Speaking more generally about some residents’ views, he said: “They see it as a wholly positive development to give them employment opportunities and access to public transport that would revolutionise their lives.”
A representative of the St Mellons Residents Group, Karen O’Shae, said she had come across similar views whilst out door knocking to get peoples’ view on the scheme.
However, she added that there were other solutions to improving transport links in the area that don’t involve building a new railway station and business park, referencing the withdrawal of Cardiff Bus service X45.
She said: “As a consequence [Mr Williams’] grandsons and our neighbours in general can’t access work… but they would be able to if services hadn’t been chopped.”
Ms O’Shae also raised concerns about the prospect of “a lot of cars coming into St Mellons, which already has a traffic problem” and the potential for increased congestion along Cypress Drive which would act as an access to the Hendre Lakes site.
She added: “They are going to come and park outside of residents’ homes and the council would then be the first to… [implement] a permit parking scheme.”
“It is a disservice to local people, not a service.”
If it goes ahead, Cardiff Parkway Station is expected to accommodate for more than 800,000 passengers a year and include four platforms and a park and ride car park.
The developers are also proposing improvements to footways and cycling infrastructure along Cypress Drive to encourage people to use alternative modes of transport.
Emyr Jones challenged the point of objectors that there is no need for more offices in Cardiff, saying that the Hendre Lakes scheme represents a “fundamentally different” prospect by offering a business park next to a metro station.
Rolls Royce has also confirmed its interest in setting up an office at the business park.
Mr Jones said: “Modal shift requires the carrot and the stick.
“This of course is the carrot.
“If people are faced with road congestion, they need alternatives and this is an important part of the alternative package.”
He later added: “It is an important part of the LDP strategy in terms of modal shift, in terms of promoting economic opportunity and dealing with the socio economic [issues] in the Southern Arc.”
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