A NEW village of up 900 homes on an industrial site, which will include a new primary school, has been given the go-ahead for a second time.
The plans are centred around the Grade II-listed former Nylon Spinners factory at Mamhilad, which was designed by Welsh architect Percy Thomas and built from 1945-48. The factory, north east of Pontypool, was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent in June 1949 and was for a period the sole source of all British-produced yarn of the revolutionary new fabric that had been developed in America in the 1930s.
Production eventually ceased in 2003, with the building listed two years later, although a number of companies maintain a presence there.
The residential-led redevelopment plans were originally approved by Torfaen Borough Council in July 2020, but necessary legal agreements were slow to progress, mostly due to the Covid pandemic.
Last year applicants Johnsey Esates submitted a number of amendments to the approved plans which were considered, and granted, by the planning committee which met at Pontypool Civic Centre today (Thursday).
The council’s head of planning, Richard Lewis, said “probably” the most significant change was that the entrance, from a new roundabout on the A4042, has been replaced with a traffic light-controlled junction further north along the trunk road. There will also be a further entrance from the old Abergavenny road.
A new neighbourhood centre, which will include a convenience store and a community hall, as well as permissions for a café and other retail units, had been proposed for the former Nylon Spinners factory and would have also included changing rooms for a new, grass sports pitch.
However, those will now be relocated to an existing building, Monmouth House, on the north of the site, and the primary school, which will have capacity for 315 pupils, is also planned to relocated to the north of the site.
Mr Lewis told councillors: “This is a better position as it allows the area it was to be built to be created in to a public square which will be a bit of a hub of activities.”
All buildings on what had been known as the Parke Davis site, to the south, will be demolished, but a re-vegetated mound in the centre of those buildings will be retained as parkland, while two ancient woodlands around the site will also be preserved and plans will be needed for their protection.
Llanfrechfa and Ponthir Labour councillor Karl Gauden asked if GP and dental services would be provided as part of the neighbourhood centre.
Mr Lewis said the site accounts for around two thirds of the Mamhilad action area, which has been identified for up to 1,700 new homes, in the county’s development plan and the health board was consulted on that before its adoption in 2013.
He said it is likely a convenience store will be part of the centre and it hoped it could attract such services: “Doctors and dentists need critical mass and it’s hoped because there will be up to 900 houses, alongside employment uses, that will be attractive so people relocate but it is for the health board to sort out.”
Pontnewynydd and Snatchwood Labour member Alfie Best asked if a water tower on the site, which may be a home to bats, would be retained and was told no plans for it have been identified as yet.
Among the commitments in the legal agreement is for the developers to spend £800,000 on the former nylon factory by taking out old machinery and putting in a lift to improve the chances of more space being let to employers.
In total 40 per cent of the building will be demolished, which Mr Lewis said would be “mostly the modern additions that we are quite happy with”, while 17 per cent of the original building would be lost which the officer said had to be justified.
Cwmbran councillor Stuart Ashley described the factory as “one of the most inspiring” he’d seen and said committee chair, Norma Parrish, had worked there, though the elderly Panteg Labour councillor didn’t confirm if that was correct.
Labour Cllr Ashely said: “It’s an interesting example of a building in our countryside and one I didn’t expect to see and someone has said it is the biggest graded building in Wales.”
As well as spending on the listed building the developers will have to provide the council with £2 million to improve or develop walking and cycling routes outside of the site and they will provide £500,000, over three years to support bus services and provide shelters and £150,000 towards trunk road improvements.
The committee was also told the council was satisfied there wouldn’t be additional phosphates entering local rivers due to the new housing, with Natural Resources Wales having seen its research, and that it could consider the application, first submitted in 2017, despite the owners of nearby land claiming a new application should have been submitted.
The outline application was approved unanimously and further detailed designs will come back to councillors in the future.