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Gething-backed scheme ‘would fatally undermine Welsh Government’s planning policy’

04 Jul 2024 5 minute read
The fields in St Mellons where the Cardiff Parkway station is planned Picture: Alex Seabrook

Martin Shipton

A big power battle is going on behind the scenes over controversial plans backed by Vaughan Gething that opponents fear would fatally undermine the Welsh Government’s planning policy.

NationCymru reported recently how environmental campaigners are anxiously awaiting a decision that could result in the destruction of a sensitive landscape in east Cardiff and see a train station built in the wrong location.

A company chaired by businessman Nigel Roberts wants to develop Hendre Lakes Business Park and a large new station called Cardiff Parkway at which express trains to London would stop.

The scheme was granted planning permission by Cardiff council in April 2022, but called in by Julie James, who was then the Welsh Government’s Climate Change Minister. “Calling in” means the decision on an application is taken not by the council, but by Planning & Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW), the planning inspectorate.

‘Sustainable’

When the scheme was passed by Cardiff council in April 2022, Mr Roberts said: “We are delighted to have gained a positive outcome at the planning committee for this transformational project. Our proposals are for a sustainable, well-connected business district with public transport and active travel at its heart.

“The project will bring investment to an area of Cardiff that needs it, create new employment opportunities, and better connect people in this region of south east Wales. We are aiming to deliver convenient and quick services, with a high-quality customer experience, particularly for public transport and active travel, to encourage sustainable transport to become the obvious choice. We are looking forward to progressing the scheme.”

Row

However, as well as attracting strong opposition from conservation groups like Cardiff Civic Society, we have now been told about a major row going on about the proposed project within the Welsh Government.

One source told us: “The project was sold as a private sector development that would pay for a new mainline station itself and was therefore a ‘sustainable development’ project. Surprise, surprise that’s fallen away and in practice the bulk of the station costs would fall to the public purse.

“There is a good case for a local Metro station, although the Civic Society is right to say it is in the wrong place, a significant distance from where people live. And a local ‘walkway’ station, as proposed for Magor or the new Metro stations developed elsewhere, is drastically different in scale from the four-platform station that has been designed.

“The (over) spec is a mainline station, which has a much bigger footprint than a local station. There are concerns that if intercity trains stop at Cardiff Parkway, GWR would consider skipping stops at Newport or Cardiff Central.

“The project as proposed would also involve building a 650-space car park on the Gwent Levels.

“Economic development officials initially supported the project and the Welsh Government took a 10% equity stake. Senior Labour politicians including Vaughan Gething, Jo Stevens, Stephen Doughty and Russell Goodway are robustly in favour of it and stress the public transport arguments – conflating the case for a station and this project, and quoting the Burns Report, saying it will be part of the Metro. Burns endorsed the scheme because of strong Welsh Government support at the time.”

M4 alternatives

The Burns Commission report on alternatives to building an M4 relief road around Newport recommended improving access for local travel along the main line with the construction of Cardiff Parkway and five other new stations between Cardiff Central and Severn Tunnel Junction.

But a source told us: “This is simply a Nigel Roberts family project to expand their out-of-town business park. The business ‘community’ (Roberts is a former Chair of Cardiff Business Council) and Council / City Region are lobbying in favour.

“However a recent report from property services firm Savills raised a big question mark over whether the market now exists for out-of-town property development on this scale. So the latest Goodway angle is to link a Rolls Royce submarines project with Parkway, implying expansion would go elsewhere if it didn’t go ahead. There is no actual evidence of this.

“There’s significant push-back within the Welsh Government. As well as objections from Natural Resources Wales, the environment / transport sides within the Welsh Government are opposed.

“The planning inspector’s draft finding supported the application, despite it being against planning policy.”

“So in summary, a station of this scale is not funded, not needed and will be to the detriment of Newport or Cardiff Central; property-led out-of-town office development is no longer aligned to market conditions; and if PEDW supports a 90,000 square metres development on a Site of Special Scientific Interest, as is being proposed, it will show that Welsh Government policies have no standing. So a lot is riding on this.”

Consideration

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This application is under active consideration and a decision will be communicated in due course.”

It is understood that a planning Inspector has considered the application, and following hearings a report has been submitted to the Welsh Government. As the application is live, it would not be appropriate for anyone at the Welsh Government to comment on the merits of the proposal as this could prejudice the final decision.

Transport for Wales said it was not able to comment.

A spokesperson for GWR said: “We are fully supportive of the scheme in principle with regional GWR trains calling regularly. However, calling mainline long distance trains there as things stand would be likely to add up to seven minutes to every journey.”

Changes have been made to this article since it was first published to reflect the facts that the area which is the subject of a planning application is a Site of Special Scientific Interest rather than a conservation area and that we mistakenly stated that the planning inspector dealing with the application had been replaced. 


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John Powers
John Powers
13 days ago

This will be transformational for Trowbridge. Why does nobody ever care about Trowbridge?

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