Plans for a £30m bypass in the Cynon Valley supported by councillors – but Welsh Government could call it in
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Plans for a £30m bypass in the Cynon Valley have been supported by councillors but will have to wait for final approval as the Welsh Government decides whether to call it in.
The council has applied to create a single carriageway from a new roundabout at Croesbychan on the A465 to a new roundabout off the A4059 (the Aberdare bypass) and it went before the planning committee on Thursday, March 10 for debate, with councillors voting in favour of it.
The proposed scheme is about 2.6km north-west of Aberdare and lies between the communities of Llwydcoed to the east and Penywaun to the west.
The line of the proposed scheme has also been agreed with the Welsh Government to ensure it aligns with the proposed dualling of the A465, which is now in its early stages of construction.
The proposed scheme, recommended for approval by officers, would connect the A4059 east of Penywaun with an unnamed road leading off the A465 Heads of the Valleys Road to the north.
A proposed new roundabout will be installed south of Croesbychan which will connect to the new link to the ‘Cynon Gateway’.
The report said there is now a need to question if circumstances have changed and that the need, in principle, to provide such new infrastructure still exists.
Despite a shift in thinking away from cars, the report said there would not appear to be any Welsh or UK Government policy that places a moratorium on considering planning proposals for new roads.
Why councillors can’t approve the application
A a section 77 call-in request has been made by Welsh Government which means that committee can discuss and debate the application, but it can’t approved it until the directive is no longer in force.
The directive has been made “to enable further consideration to be given to whether or not the application should be referred to the Welsh Ministers for their determination.”
The Welsh Government has recently announced a review of all road building schemes in Wales and the establishment of a road review panel.
The planning report said that while it may have implication for the funding and
construction of this project, there has not been a Welsh Government directive that prohibits councils from determining existing applications.
Environmental, historical and residential constraints
There are a number of constraints that needed to be considered such as historic assets like listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments, environmental assets like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation, European Protected Species, an ancient woodland or the presence of residential properties.
The report said the applicant has identified these constraints through an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Environmental Statement and has looked to reduce, wherever possible, any negative impacts.
Although Natural Resources Wales has expressed “significant concerns”, these have been minimised so far as is possible to the point where it is satisfied appropriate mitigation has been provided, the report added.
Another concern remains on the potential of it to impact on the setting of the Brecon Beacons National Park but the report said it is not thought any impact would be so unacceptable as to warrant a recommendation of refusal.
Cadw has some “significant concerns” over the impact of the development on the remains of the Gamlyn Viaduct – which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument although little of the original structure remains.
But the report said Cadw has said these concerns could be mitigated by the applicant incorporating a range of specific measures that would help compensate for the proposal’s impact.
Objections to the scheme
There have been eight objections to the application and 21 letters of support.
Among the objectors is Llantwit Fardre councillor and South Wales Central MS Joel James.
The case against the road includes the argument that Welsh Government has declared a climate emergency and is not yet on target to meet its commitment.
They also pointed to RCT’s Draft Council Tackling Climate Change Strategy which shares “emission concerns” in particular to meeting carbon neutrality by 2030.
They said the development of a new road is contradictory to the commitment and the Well-being of Future Generations Act , that it will adversely impact on an SSSI, will impact negatively on bats, result in the loss of farming land and ancient woodland and increase noise and pollution
Other objections included that there’s no need for an additional road as commuting habits have changed, the money would be better spent on other public services, that it would be detrimental to Aberdare town centre, that it should be rejected or delayed until the outcome of the roads review is known and that the former Mayhew Chicken Factory for use as a metro station is more environmentally friendly and will mean they don’t need to spend £30m which would be better spent on public services and increasing electric charging point provision.
Hirwaun and Penderyn Community Council raised concerns and objected to the proposal because of climate change and environmental science, the impact on the SSSI, Special Landscape Area, a SINC and local wildlife and the impact of the road on the peace and tranquillity of the area and that the £30m cost for the road cannot be justified.
The case in favour of the scheme
Among the supporters of the application are the Llwydcoed Community Action Group, Councillors Ann Crimmings, Gareth Jones, Helen Boggis and the Cynon Valley MS Vikki Howells
They said the bypass is urgently needed as the volume of traffic (currently) is too great for the Llwydcoed village.
They also said the village is used as a short-cut, backlogs of traffic occur at certain times of the day, the existing roads of Llwydcoed are too narrow and not fit for purpose and the weight limit on the bridge is not adhered to.
They said pollution in the village is unacceptable due to emissions, traffic travels are far too fast in the village so it is dangerous for children and the
elderly to cross the road safely, large vehicles ignore the signs and travel through the village regardless and the construction of the road will bring economic benefits to Llwydcoed.
They also made reference to the positive comments from the planning inspector about the scheme.
Other arguments in favour that have been made are that the scheme is not about increasing road capacity but that this is about dealing with displaced traffic through the A465 dualling scheme and safeguarding the health and well-being of residents.
They acknowledged there may be some loss of flora and fauna but said that the current route for heavy vehicles and commuters to the A465 is via Penywaun (and Llwydcoed) and this is untenable.
They said the current situation is detrimental to highway safety and developments at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun with additional pupils attending has
led to traffic chaos on the estate and tailbacks on Hirwaun Road with
associated air pollution associated with stationary traffic.
They said the road is needed to protect the health and well-being of the residents of Penywaun.
The view of the committee
Councillor Ross Williams said he was “in absolute full support” of the application adding that it’s his firm belief that it would bring “opportunity, prosperity and growth” for the whole of the Cynon Valley.
He said he believes they should be looking to modernise road networks throughout the county borough.
He said he understands the environmental concerns but said they seem to be “very minimal” and said he thinks the positives outweigh the concerns.
Councillor Julie Barton said she would “find it very difficult” to support the application.
She said her sympathies are with the residents of Llwydcoed and Penywaun and she understands their difficulties but she said her major problem with it is the effect it will have on biodiversity and ecology of the area.
Councillor Pauline Jarman said she had similar concerns to Cllr Barton but on the balance of her involvement and commitment over many years she sees the need for the road.
She said she’s very familiar with the pressures of the traffic going through Llwydcoed.
She said she has a problem with the directive from Welsh Government saying that she’s disturbed that both communities have been “very misled” and that they were told there was a moratorium on new roads but now they have been told there is not.
She said: “We can be forgiven as a planning authority for being very confused ourselves.”
Cllr Jarman said on the basis of what the economic benefits would be she’s coming down in favour but added that she’s far from happy with the way it’s been planned.
Councillor Wayne Owen said he wouldn’t be supporting it saying he remembered when they had open fields in the south of the borough and that once you build the roads, the developments follow and then you lose the wildlife.
He said the people of Cynon Valley should be “very careful what you wish for because before you know it you’ll have nothing left up there. You’ll have no open spaces, you’ll have no green areas”.
Councillor Danny Grehan, who confirmed he’d be objecting to it, said he understands the concerns of the residents of Llwydcoed but he said he thinks building fewer roads is the way forward and said they should be connecting people in different ways
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A Council Leader vanity project
“Despite a shift in thinking away from cars”, that’s easy for them to say down south and this will be approved being down south. You can’t force people to use public transport for your vanity projects be realistic and give Llanbedr their bypass and remove the roundabouts on the a55, the senedd is 100 times worse than Westminster. Boris might have a secret love child but he’s not got one in prison like some.
Why are they suggesting installing a new roundabout on the Heads of the Valleys at a time when millions are being spent on dualling and removing the existing roundabout at Hirwaun?