‘Disastrous’ decision as fourth-generation farmers to be kicked off land for business park east of Cardiff Airport
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Fourth-generation farmers are set to be kicked off their land for a new business park east of Cardiff Airport, in a decision dubbed “disastrous” by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
The Jenkins family have lived and worked at Model Farm, off Port Road, since 1935, currently rearing beef cattle and growing wildflowers to sell wildflower seeds.
But Legal and General, who own the land, now have planning permission to turn Model Farm into a 45-hectare business park.
Vale of Glamorgan council granted the financial services giant permission on Wednesday, July 14, despite more than 1,000 public objections including concerns about climate change.
Gethin Jenkins told the planning committee: “I’m the third generation of my family to farm at Model Farm. My son would be the fourth if this generation is rejected. We rear beef cattle, grow cereals, and have recently started growing wildflower seeds for sale throughout Wales. The increase in bees, pollinators and other insects in these fields is truly amazing.
“In the aftermath of Brexit, it should be of paramount importance to secure a sustainable supply of home-grown food and thus reduce the carbon footprint and food miles of our goods. Taking away this productive farm goes against all these principles. Anything that will be built here, could also be built on a brownfield site within a three-mile radius.
“If you allow this development, you will not only be taking away my family’s farming future and my son’s home, you will be denying all future generations their right to see a vibrant countryside on their doorstep. Once it’s built on, it’s gone forever.
“The Senedd, Vale council and even Legal and General are keen to promote saving the environment, yet it will take decades to repair the damage done to natural habitats by this development. It would be far better to leave the existing habitats as they are now.”
After the meeting, Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives and also a Vale councillor, called the decision “disastrous”.
He said: “This decision is disastrous for the people of Rhoose and west Barry, who had rightly raised concerns about the loss of agricultural land and the impacts on road congestion. There was just one vote in it, and permission was only granted after Labour and Independent councillors voted in favour.
“I firmly believe there were sufficient planning grounds to reject the application. We live in a very different world to the one when the site was first included in the Vale’s local development plan.
“When the plans were first brought forward, we were told the proposed M4 Junction 34 relief road would provide key transport infrastructure, but this will now not be built. The nearby St Athan Enterprise Park has just been put up for sale. The pandemic has hit demand for commercial office space, and these factors should have been taken into account.”
The northern half of the site will be a business park, and the southern half will form a 49-hectare extension to Porthkerry Country Park. Main access to the business park will be from the roundabout at Port Road and the A4226, with secondary access from the Port Road roundabout by the Holiday Inn hotel. The business park is estimated to create 3,225 jobs.
The business park would specifically serve the aerospace industry and high-tech manufacturing. Legal and General is planning to sell the land to a “high profile, prestigious employer”, but a representative could not tell the planning committee who this would be.
During the planning meeting, Darren Parker said: “Nearly 20 years ago, L&G acquired land near three airports in England and here in the Vale of Glamorgan. To date, L&G has made considerable investment to get to this point of the planning committee today. This site could accommodate thousands of jobs. This would generate over £90 million in wages each year.
“There are no technical objections, including traffic impact, to the proposed business park from any of the statutory consultees. The benefit of bringing forward the local development plan allocation outweighs any harm.
“L&G urgently needs planning permission to serve notice and obtain the vacant possession of the site. This will enable the sale of the site to a high-profile purchaser… who will deliver high quality jobs in the Vale of Glamorgan and a major boost for the region. After nearly 20 years, the investment made by L&G will have been realised.
“Legal and General has had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and therefore not even I know the name of this employer. All I have been told is that it is a very prestigious and high profile employer.”
The planning committee was split on whether to grant permission, with nine councillors voting in favour and eight against. Some welcomed the boost to the economy, while others raised concerns about traffic congestion and the impact on the environment and climate.
Labour Councillor Neil Thomas said: “A new major employment area with high quality jobs in the Vale may encourage people in the area to work closer to home rather than commute out of the Vale, with consequent benefits to the environment. The strategic importance of the airport is well recognised. I’m surprised local councillors aren’t supporting employment for local residents.”
Labour Councillor Mark Wilson said: “We have a lot of commuting from Penarth into Cardiff. That means people are spending money in Cardiff. I would like that money to be spent in the Vale of Glamorgan. If you’ve got jobs going to be provided in the Vale, then people from Penarth might start to commute to Barry, hopefully in a sustainable way, using public transport. Creating 3,500 jobs, and the jobs stemming from that, has got to be a good thing.”
Plaid Cymru Councillor Ian Johnson raised concerns about how these plans contradict recent commitments from the Vale council to cut carbon emissions and respond to the climate crisis.
He said: “The Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan council has declared a climate emergency, but Labour councillors didn’t even blink when supporting a 45-hectare business park for the aerospace industry, built on a greenfield site and a working family farm.
“Councillors were told that there had been no significant change in planning policy since the local development plan was adopted in 2017.
“Well, if declaring a climate emergency at Welsh Government and council level doesn’t mean that we should at least think twice about plans that will put thousands of cars on the road every day for a business park that caters for the needs of the aerospace industry, then what is ever going to be refused?
“The Welsh Government climate change minister should consider the implications of this decision upon the aims of her portfolio.”
A spokesman from Legal and General said: “The site has been allocated for development for a number of years and we are pleased to have received a resolution to grant planning permission, subject to the agreement of a Section 106 obligation.
“This important project will help to strengthen the Enterprise Zone as a gateway for business and leisure, while attracting world class talent and contributing towards the creation of local, regional and national employment opportunities.
“We have worked closely with the Vale of Glamorgan council, Cardiff and Vale College, and Cardiff Airport, among other stakeholders, to ensure that the scheme best meets the needs of the local area.
“An Environmental Impact Assessment has underpinned the planning application, and the preservation and enhancement of natural habitats and wildlife has been secured through a combination of mitigation measures, planning conditions and the planning obligation.”
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