Family of former MP fears development will encroach on his memorial
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
The family of Sir Harold Finch have criticised the council over fears a new housing development will encroach on a memorial park named after the former Bedwellty MP.
The 123-home Chartist Garden Village will be built on the brownfield site of the old council offices in Pontllanfraith and on green space.
A planning application for the development off Blackwood Road was approved by Caerphilly County Borough Council at the beginning of November.
The family of Sir Harold Finch, a Member of Parliament for Bedwellty from 1950 to 1970, have campaigned against the development for a number of years.
Jaqueline Jones, who is the granddaughter of the MP, described the council’s decision to grant planning permission as “disrespectful”.
Mrs Jones said the family were not objecting to the development as a whole, but the part that would be built on green space.
Ward councillor for Pontllanfraith Colin Gordon however said the council “guarantee” the development will not be built on the park.
Cllr Roy Saralis, chair of the planning committee, said: “There is some reduction in green space, but there is also much improvement to the open area.”
The green space is home to a Second World War memorial and the memorial plaque of Sir Harold Finch.
The war memorial will remain in its current place, while the Sir Harold Finch memorial plaque will be moved.
‘Previously been moved’
Cllr Saralis, who had previously campaigned for Sir Harold Finch, said that where the plaque is currently placed is not its original location – it had previously been moved to avoid vandalism and damage.
In a planning committee meeting held on November 3, Cllr Adrian Hussey, who represents Newbridge, recommended the development be named after Sir Harold Finch.
Mrs Jones said: “The park is already named after him, an honour he would have cherished knowing that green spaces were available to the people of the area.”
Residents of Pontllanfraith are supporting the objections of Mrs Jones and her family – a petition against the application received more than a thousand signatures.
One resident, Dean Jones, said: “If the council wanted to listen to the wishes of the family it would not be driving this.”
Another resident, Shane Williams, said: “I find it strange that sometimes the council is worried about the loss green space when it comes to planning applications, and then the next week it is not bothered.”
Mr Williams added: “One thing we have seen during the pandemic is the need for green spaces. Having access to outdoor space is vital for people’s mental health and wellbeing.”
The development includes 83 affordable homes, these will be managed by housing association, Pobl.
‘Potential loss of green space’
Outline planning permission was granted in July 2021. Councillors had previously deferred the planning application because of the potential loss of green space.
A council spokesman said: “It is important to clarify that the new housing development will not encroach onto the Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park, the adjacent protected nature reserve or the Site of Special Scientific Interest.
“The Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park has a defined boundary which will remain unaffected by the development. However, the council’s Local Development Plan includes an area of unrelated land next to the memorial park which, due to its close proximity, has been given the same name and this seems to be causing some confusion.
“The council will work with the family of Sir Harold Finch to agree the sympathetic relocation of a stone plinth to a new gateway site at the entrance to the actual park area.”
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