Plans for a £250 million adventure resort in the Afan Valley are set to be decided next week
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Detailed plans for a £250 million adventure resort in the Afan Valley are due to be decided next Tuesday.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee will be presented with a recommendation to approve the Wildfox Resort, on 132 hectares of land at Pen Y Bryn, by Croeserw and Cymmer.
The reserved matters application, which has outline planning consent, has proposed:
– 570 lodges, mainly three and four-bedroom
– a 50-bed hotel and 15-bed apartment-hotel
– an indoor water park and canyon-ing facilities in a building with an E-sports lounge, a climbing and bouldering building with a small retail area, a spa, restaurant with viewing area, other food and drink provision, central plaza, forest hub and arrivals building, and staff compound
– a 650-space guest car park, including 130 electric vehicle charging points, and 250-space staff car park
– new guest access off the A4107 to the west, use of existing A4063 for staff to access via the east
– a series of mountain bike trails linking the various activities and accommodation.
The planning report said the project would result in significant economic benefits to the area and also the reforestation of large sections of the application site. There would be benefits, it added, for biodiversity.
Changes from the outline consent include 30 fewer lodges, a smaller hotel, and a relocation of the guest car park to the hotel area. Planning officers said the main issues to consider included the resort’s visual impact and effect on people living nearby, road safety, biodiversity, flooding, land contamination and archaeological matters.
The report said the dark lodges with their green roofs would make them “almost invisible” in the landscape.
It added that the resort’s buildings were sufficiently distant from nearby houses, and that three rights of way within the site would be partially diverted, subject to approval at a later stage. The other right of way would be fully diverted or replaced.
A three-metre wide shared-use path would link the resort for guest cyclists and walkers at the staff access on the A4063.
Council ecologists considered that a peat area within the resort site would be protected, while a waste management plan was felt to be acceptable.
Officers have, however, expressed energy concerns. While applicant Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd has proposed an “ambient heat network” linking the spa, activity buildings and plaza, plus solar panels on main buildings and air source heat pumps for the lodges, the council wants it to go further.
The report cites a Welsh Government policy which aims for Wales to become a renewable energy technology world leader. “This aspiration is echoed by Neath Port Talbot Council who would like Wildfox Resort to be an exemplar tourism development,” it said.
There was therefore an expectation, said the report, that the lodges should generate some of their own energy and be as “carbon neutral” as possible. The report also said an area within the site considered suitable for solar arrays or solar “carports” had not been sufficiently investigated to provide reasons why it could not be incorporated.
In addition, an assessment of the resort’s impact on the Cymmer tunnel hadn’t been submitted.
The report confirmed that Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley had signed a legal agreement with the council, which includes the applicant providing a solar farm site, plus an off-site compensation area or areas and associated habitat management plans.
The agreement also required the company to contribute towards the nearby 885 National Cycle Network route connecting the Afan Valley to Maesteg. Potential connections onto this route, said the planning report, would need to be explored.
Speaking last year, Martin Bellamy, chairman and chief executive of Salamanca Group, which is taking forward the project, said he had been attracted to its “size, scale and sheer ambition”.
He envisaged some 1,200 jobs being created when the resort was up and running, with many workers from the local area.
“Building what we believe is the first proper adventure resort in the UK in such a beautiful part of the country as the Afan Valley is very, very exciting,” he said.
“There is an increasing focus on adventure sports, and we feel this is a market which is not particularly well-served.”
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