The Vale’s planning committee has given the green light to a total of 120 homes on a site near Bonvilston – to the dismay of local residents.
Those objecting to the development point out that the size of the village could be doubled.
A spokesman for St Nicholas with Bonvilston Community Council told The GEM that due to the reduced viability of the development of 120 houses, Bonvilston and the neighbouring communities were effectively subsidising the project by almost £750,000.
He explained: “In order to make the project viable due to infra-structure costs of highways and water treatment works, it has been agreed that the council will reduce their requirements in a number of ways – by reducing the percentage of affordable homes from 40 per cent to 20 per cent; a reduction of 106 obligation for education from £1,123,000 to £500,000; a reduction of 106 obligation for the local community from £118,600 to zero; a reduction of ‘106 obligation’ for sustainable transport from £240,000 to £36,000; and a total reduction in ‘106 obligations’ of almost £950,000.
“It is interesting to note that other local developments at Wenvoe, HTV and St Nicholas, were all approved without any reduction in the 106 obligations.
“The highway improvements, instead of continuing from the A48 to the Peterston-Pendoylan junction, as had been proposed, will now only run for 400 metres from the main road. The use of £38,000 to provide a cycleway along this complete section must be questioned.
“How is it that this project has arrived at this point after more than four years in the planning?”
The spokesman emphasised: “The LDP 2013 specifically highlighted the need for improvements to highways and upgrades to the water treatment works.
“Surely four years has been sufficient time to determine the viability of the project? Yet the first time the community council was made aware of the issue, was just before the planning meeting when the development was approved.”
The spokesman stressed that some amenities are run by local volunteers: “The planning meeting held on Thursday, February 2, at which approval was given, was four days before the most recent consultation period was due to end.
Whatever the intent, it does appear that this application was already a done deal.
“Bonvilston has very limited facilities – not even a public waste bin. The social amenities, which are available have little or no external financial assistance and are run by enthusiastic volunteers.
“Where will the funding come from to enhance what local facilities there are?”
The spokesman said there were some very specific concerns regarding the development.
“Welsh Water will require a major upgrade of the Welsh Water Treatment Works and a new sewer feeding it as it currently only has capacity for a further 30 dwellings.
“The report states that the costs of such works will be subject to a 106 agreement. Given that further studies are necessary to confirm the solution, if costs increase, what assurances can be given that costs will not be cut in other aspects of the project in order to maintain the project viability?
“Similarly the drainage scheme as required by Welsh Water has not yet undergone detailed design and costing. Again what if the costs increase?
“ The sports pitch and adjacent play areas are situated in an area subject to regular waterlogging. How is this going to be addressed so that it does not become a useless amenity?”
He added: “It is clear that this development is only made viable by the diversion of funds, which would have been otherwise used to support the growth in population. The loss of over £600,000 for education provision should be a real concern.
The decision was condemned by Plaid Cymru Vale councillor Chris Franks.
“This joins a long list of schemes where the planning committee has approved housing with little regard for the impact the building will have on the local roads, schools and public facilities.”
Marcus Goldsworthy, the Vale Council’s head of regeneration and planning, said: “The concerns raised by St Nicholas with Bonvilston Community Council are noted.
“There were a number of abnormal development costs that had to be factored into the development of this site. The council is required, by national planning guidance, to consider reduced contributions when an applicant can robustly demonstrate that planning obligations would adversely affect the viability of a development.
“In this instance, the council had to prioritise the necessitated improvements at Bonvilston Welsh Water Treatment Works and Pendoylan Lane, and these costs were balanced against a reduced provision of on-site affordable housing and reduced education contribution.
“Nevertheless, the site still offers the opportunity to provide a level of affordable housing in Bonvilston and the rural Vale that meets local needs, and will ensure necessary improvements to Pendoylan lane are undertaken.
“Viability and the prioritising of planning obligations were discussed at length during the consideration of the application at Planning Committee, and the decision was made having given due regard to all material considerations.”