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Housing development on much-loved woodland and wildlife habitat refused

07 Dec 2023 4 minute read

A public campaign to prevent houses being built on the site of a ‘vital’ wildlife habitat has been successful, with planning committee members unanimously refusing the application.

An amended proposal to build 36 social housing properties on land at Danescourt Woodland was deferred for refusal by Cardiff Council’s planning committee at a meeting on Thursday, December 7.

Committee members unanimously agreed that the impact on the woodland would not justify the construction of the homes.

One councillor, Councillor Calum Davies, said there would be “too much environmental destruction for too little in return”.

Taff Housing

An agent representing the applicants, Taff Housing Association, argued the development would deliver vital affordable housing for the area.

Philippa Cole said Llandaff and Llandaff North are “among the areas of highest need” in Cardiff.

Commenting on the “considerable strain” being put on individuals and families due to the city’s housing crisis, Ms Cole added: “Urgent delivery of affordable homes is the obvious… solution to addressing this need.”

A piece of woodland to the north of the site was also offered in mitigation for the loss of green space which would have eventually been adopted by the council.

The council received a number of objections from local residents in response to a consultation and a petition in opposition to the plans gained more than 2,300 signatures.

Committee members conducted a site visit of Danescourt Woodlands earlier this week.

One young petitioner, Leia Farewell, spoke at Thursday’s meeting, saying: “This generation stands to lose all… you have seen for yourselves some of the beauty of the site that you are addressing.”

Leia described the woodland as one of the “last wild spaces in Cardiff”, and called on committee members to help protect it.

The council’s report on the scheme recommended it for approval, with one officer stating at the meeting that concerns over the loss of woodland would not be adequate on their own as grounds to refuse the application.

However, points of opposition stretched beyond this, with another concern being that a new access to the site would cut through a path enjoyed by walkers.

Wellbeing benefits

Conservative ward member for Llandaff, Councillor Sean Driscoll, noted the plan sought to provide affordable housing, but argued the proposed site wasn’t suitable.

He said: “Why are we even contemplating putting this scheme on a former tip against a railway embankment with so many issues?

“That will destroy a precious wildlife habitat that offers enormous health and wellbeing benefits to the community.”

Labour councillor for Llandaff, Peter Jenkins, agreed with his ward colleague, saying the area in question is “fundamentally unsuitable for housing of any type”.

He added it would damage, in a way that cannot be mitigated, a “vital space”.

The original plans for Danescourt Woodland proposed the construction of 45 homes in 2020.

Two previous applications for housing on the same site, one for five homes in 2004 and one for 48 homes in 2012, were both rejected.

Chair of the council’s planning committee, Councillor Ed Stubbs, said he believed the proposed mitigation would not address the loss to the natural environment sufficiently.

He said: “Social housing is life changing… but this cannot be without exception”.

Other members of the committee added to the chair’s comments, with Councillor Garry Hunt saying “something precious is lost no matter what happens… if we grant it though, something probably more precious is lost”.

Cllr Emma Reid-Jones said the conditions attached to the planning report didn’t go “anywhere near where we need to be” in terms of addressing concerns around the development.

Later on in the meeting, Councillor Peter Wong added: “It is a case of balancing housing need with open space and I do think that this… has got the balance wrong.”

Another planning committee meeting will need to be held for members to confirm the reasons for refusing the application, with a date yet to be announced.

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