Plans advance for major housing development at derelict coke works
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Plans to redevelop a former coke works in Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) into housing have taken a step forward.
On Monday, (July 17) RCT council’s cabinet approved entering into an agreement with the developer to enable the draw-down of £8m of funding from the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) Housing Investment Fund for the Cwm Coking Works in Beddau.
The report to cabinet described the coking works as a strategic site in the council’s local development plan (LDP) and noted there is potential to develop a minimum of 625 homes, subject to planning permission, and to remove the eyesore of the disused works.
The report said that although the site has been the subject of previous planning applications, little or no interest has been expressed, which would suggest that development would not be forthcoming without additional funding.
RCT, along with a number of other councils in the area, has been working with CCR on funding to deliver major residential developments that have stalled and without intervention from the public sector, would not be built.
The cabinet report said these are often because of a viability gap caused by prevailing ground conditions largely caused either by past mining activities or previous uses at the site which have resulted in a legacy of significant contamination.
RCT has spoken with 20 developers and landowners whose sites have (or had) planning consent and/or are allocated sites within the council’s LDP but have not been delivered.
Of these, three were selected by the council for funding under the CCR Viability Gap Funding – the former coking works, the former Aberdare Hospital site and Nant y Wenallt/Moss Place which is near the hospital.
All were selected and were made eligible for funding with £8m allocated to the Cwm Coking Works, £2.04m to the former Aberdare Hospital site and £1.514m for Nant y Wenallt/Moss Place.
RCT has been awarded £11.554m from a maximum available fund of £35m which is just over 33% of the fund.
Initial figures suggested, subject to planning consent, that the funding allocated to RCT would help secure approximately 1,000 houses with each site having to include 10-20% affordable housing.
Because of the specific nature of the financial position of both the Aberdare sites and their respective developers, the funding for those two sites is allocated through a direct agreement between the developers and CCR so no action is being asked of cabinet on them.
The report said about the Cwm Coking Works proposal: “It is considered that there are significant benefits to be realised through the council enabling this grant funding to be delivered.
“The grant will enable the former and now derelict coking works to be safely removed from the site and also enable the site which in parts, has significant levels of contamination to be remediated to level that will make it ‘oven ready’ for residential led development.”
The financial agreement means that although funding would be made available via CCR, the administration of the funds and the delivery of the houses will be a matter for the council to monitor and see through to completion.
Should the funds be paid out and the development not completed within a set timescale and under certain conditions, the council would ultimately be responsible for paying all or part of the money back to CCR.
But the developer will be required to enter into a back-to-back agreement with the council before any funding is claimed that effectively transfers the liability onto the developer, the report said.
The council will make it a requirement that the developer offer a company guarantee to underwrite any repayments.
Councillor Mark Norris, cabinet member for development and prosperity, said it is a “great opportunity” for RCT to open up a site that was previously considered unviable, that it would remediate a very difficult site and help towards house building targets.
Council leader Andrew Morgan said that without this capital investment, the site would not be delivered due to the land reclamation works needed.
He also said fewer houses are being proposed now than were originally included in the plans and that there will be a lot of green areas and biodiversity.
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