Welsh Government tells council to reconsider major housing development
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
Caerphilly Council has been told to think again over plans to build up to 2,700 homes in the village of Maesycwmmer by the Welsh Government’s chief planning officer.
The village’s Parc Gwernau was chosen as a “strategic site” in the council’s second replacement Local Development Plan (LDP).
An LDP is a blueprint used by planners, councillors and developers, which maps out how an area should develop. In this instance, the council’s proposed LDP sets out the direction of development until 2035.
Of the 3,000 homes identified as being needed for this LDP, 1,200 will be in Maesycwmmer. An additional 1,500 homes are also expected to be allocated to Maesycwmmer in a future LDP, but not the one currently being put together.
But in a letter to Caerphilly Council’s principal planner Dave Lucas, the Welsh Government’s chief planning officer said the authority needed to “reconsider” its strategy over “fundamental concerns”.
These include an increase in traffic levels as the new homes would need to be accessed via car and uncertainty how the building of a new “spine road” would be paid for.
Did not conform
Neil Hemington said the strategy did not conform with the Welsh Government’s Future Wales framework – which sets out its broader ambition for development in Wales.
He wrote: “The site will be primarily residential, and the proposed layout is ‘road dominated’. Issues related to the delivery of the spine road, to relieve congestion on the A472, raise serious questions as to whether wider comprehensive development, placemaking and a modal shift away from the private car can be achieved.”
He added that one of the council’s key priorities should be to support a shift to walking, cycling and public transport.
The letter also said the “absence of evidence demonstrating that a regional approach” had been taken was a “significant concern”.
The preferred strategy to develop the LDP was agreed by full council on September 29, 2022. The Welsh Government’s comments were made in November as part of that consultation process.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service obtained a copy of the Welsh Government letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At September’s meeting, councillors were told a new road was to be built to access the proposed site. The new road’s potential effect on traffic caused concern for Cllr Jan Jones, Cllr Jo Rao and Cllr Marina Chacon-Dawson.
Labour councillor Chacon-Dawson, who represents Cefn Fforest and Pengam, said the A472 “doesn’t function very well at the moment” and the development would increase pressure.
Head of planning Rhian Kyte said the new road would ease traffic on the A472. Ms Kyte added: “Another road in Maesycwmmer would change the way people travel in and around that area.”
Councillors were told the road would pass Bryn Meadows and link with the Dyffryn Industrial Estate – further details are to be revealed.
In the letter, Mr Hemington also recommends the council allocate specific sites for affordable housing.
Caerphilly’s first replacement LDP was thrown out in 2016 following widespread opposition from residents who did not want green areas such as Gwern y Domen, near Rudy, built on.
A petition protesting at the plans in Maesycwmmer has attracted over 700 signatures so far.
Caerphilly County Borough Council has been contacted for comment.
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Wales has a housing crisis but the answer is not to build 2,700 houses on greenfield land in a small town like Caerphily. Are there that many house-hunters or homeless people in the town, or are the houses being built to satisfy somebody else’s housing shortage, turning it into a dormitory town? Local Development Plans are a scandal, and the Welsh Government might wish to consider what devolved powers (if any) that it has to overrule them.