Housing plans 'ill thought out' and 'rushed' say opponents

Thursday 5th June 2014 10:00 pm
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CONTROVERSIAL plans for a housing development in Gilwern which are due to be discussed at the Brecon Beacons National Park's Planning, Access and Right of Way Committee next week, are ill-thought out and rushed according to opponents. The development site at Cae Meldon was allocated within the approved Unitary Development Plan of 2007, with the western half of it allocated for residential development in the Local Plan of 1999. The original allocation for houses was set at 112 under the LDP, and site has been the subject of pre-application negotiations with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Monmouthshire County Council going back to 2011 but many residents feel that the process has not taken their concerns into account. David Ahern from Gilwern is among those who has spoken out agains the plans which he says do not make sense. " Within the most recent plans there have been changes to access routes and the removal of some footpaths, and I cannot understand the thought process of the planners of the development as this will cause untold difficulties to any disabled or elderly people who live in the development, especially those who could reside within the 18 affordable units. "There will be such struggles with access," he said. "There are narrow lanes, and if people don't have footpaths how are they supposed to get around the development and walk out of it? It is all very badly thought out." Many of these concerns have been echoed by residents and members of the local community council. In a meeting earlier this year, residents spoke about their fears about impact the development will have on local amenities. With a limited numbers of places available in local schools and local doctors' surgeries, poor public transport and few local amenities, most felt the site was not suitable for a large number of houses. Since the initial application was made he number of homes proposed for the development has been reduced, and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has assured the protestors that financial provisions have been made within the proposal for improvements to for education (£246,000) and open spaces and recreation (£303,416 ), as well as £56,000 for public transport improvements to help accessibility in and out of the village. Despite this objectors to the plans feel that the development is just not appropriate for its village surroundings Local councillors Giles Howard and Simon Howarth also claim that many aspects of the proposed development fly in the face of the policies of the National Park while others fear that such a large scale development and the resulting light pollution could put the area at risk of losing its prestigious dark skies status. Overwhelming all the objections however is local anger about the alleged conduct of the BBNPA in relation to openness and transparency and David Ahern has spoken about his lack of faith in the National Parks in regard to access to information regarding the scheme and his fears that the application has been 'rushed' with little chance for residents to see plans or make formal objections within the allocated time period. A spokesperson from the BBNPA has said the authority did not feel there had been a lack of transparency or a limited consultation.  "The application has been in since December, 2013.  We allowed 28 days (instead of the normal 21 days) for responses with the initial consultation (to allow for the Christmas period). Following that we then allowed 21 days for responses at the start of April 2014 after receiving amended plans and documents that were submitted in response to comments made by statutory consultees and neighbours and we have now undertaken a further 14 day re-consultation to advise interested parties of changes to the treatment of Ty Mawr Lane (following advice from Monmouthshire County Council Highways Officers), an amended phasing plan for the scheme, a correction on one of the submitted plans and an updated planning obligations statement prior to reporting the application to a PAROW Committee meeting. "Furthermore, the committee report will include a summary of all responses received and any additional representations received by the National Park Authority after the agenda has been finalised will be verbally reported to members as part of the case officer's presentation.  " Now residents are waiting in hope that their concerns will indeed be heard and taken action on by the PAROW committee next week.Mr Ahern added, "The planners simply must see the mistakes within the plans and rectify them before taking any action. I hope for the sake of the village that they do, as this could hugely impact on Gilwern, the value of the houses and so much more."

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