Your Questions Answered: Bridgend Council responds to comments on development masterplan

copyright Lisa Baker 2021

The consultation on Bridgend County Borough Council’s new development masterplan has drawn a wide range of different comments on social media – and not all of them have been accurate.

Below, Cllr Stuart Baldwin, Cabinet Member for Communities, responds to some of the questions, claims and misconceptions.

 

What is the Local Development Plan, and why is it so important?

“The Replacement Local Development Plan, also called the LDP, features all of the policies that the council will use when determining future planning applications.

“It uses up-to-date data to determine what future local needs will be in order to set out how land will be used, and which parts of the county borough will be maintained as open space or designated for residential, employment, retail, waste, mineral development, community and tourism purposes.”

 

The council doesn’t really want people to respond to the LDP consultation.

“If this was even remotely true, we are not doing a very good job of hiding it – the draft report on the response to the consultation is already 800 pages long! The truth is that we want to take account of local views while also working within the parameters of all relevant legislation and guidance, and to produce a balanced plan that reflects this while remaining fit for purpose.

“What we are aiming for is the development of a safe, healthy, inclusive network of communities that can demonstrate strong employment, service and transportation functions, and which connect with the wider region to trigger sustainable economic growth.”

 

The council is only building new houses so it can generate extra council tax.

“This is another popular misconception – anyone who thinks building new houses generates extra revenue for the council in the form of council tax is mistaken as Welsh Government deducts this from the main annual settlement grant that each local authority receives.”

 

Is the LDP intended to accommodate a predicted population boom in Cardiff?

“Absolutely not. It is being prepared to ensure that local development takes place in the right areas, with the right level of infrastructure in place, and so the right balance can be maintained over what the area’s future needs are likely to be.

“Part of why the LDP is necessary is to avoid creating a policy vacuum which could be ruthlessly exploited by the development industry.

“Within such a scenario, there would be significant pressure from developers to release greenfield sites in unsustainable locations. The council would resist, this would inevitably lead to expensive and lengthy planning appeals, and we could end up seeing developments being approved against our wishes which would undermine our strategy and long-term vision.”

 

Are you building new houses here because Cardiff doesn’t want them?

“This is perhaps the biggest misconception that I have seen actively promoted on social media, but much like the inaccurate claim that Bridgend council tax is diverted to be spent on Cardiff city projects, it is simply not true.

“The LDP uses local population data and more to establish how much additional housing is going to be needed within the area, so no, this has nothing to do with whatever Cardiff’s requirements might be – it is focused firmly on Bridgend County Borough.”

 

Why are you proposing to allow so many new houses to be built?

“We have a growing population, people are living for longer and we need to provide them with suitable homes. Anyone who believes otherwise should ask themselves, where do you want your own children to live once they have grown up and are looking to start families of their own?

“The truth is that LDPs allow for new houses to be built because they are going to be necessary. That’s why similar housing is being planned in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the Vale, Neath Port Talbot and so on.

“In Bridgend County Borough, we aim to ensure that they are built on brownfield sites, not greenfield areas, and even if each new development that has been proposed goes ahead, the predicted numbers would amount to around 200 new houses a year for the next 15 years.”

 

The council should be establishing new jobs, not new houses.

“New jobs and new houses go hand in hand within the LDP – don’t assume that it is all about housing, because it also details where future commercial and industrial development can take place.

“Many regional towns are experiencing population decline because people are moving to places where there are both jobs and homes. We are lucky to be situated geographically between Swansea and Cardiff, but you still have to have the services and the houses to accommodate younger people and their families.

“Attracting and developing a skilled workforce within the growing population is an important factor in encouraging new and existing employers to invest into the area, and the LDP is seeking to create around 5,000 new jobs throughout its duration.

“The aim is to achieve a better balance between the location of employment provision and housing, to support new job opportunities, and to provide a realistic level and variety of land that can be used for employment purposes.

 

Where is the infrastructure to support new houses?

“One of the reasons why the LDP seeks to deliver large-scale sites is because doing so means that new support infrastructure can be provided at the same time.

“For example, sites in the vicinity of Bridgend town would include 20 percent affordable housing, new primary schools and broader education facilities, new leisure and recreation facilities, public open space, new community facilities, commercial uses and more.

“As we don’t just do this in isolation, we have also met with partners such as Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board so that they can plan ahead in line with potential future developments.”

 

Will Bridgend County Borough be just a commuter area for Cardiff and the M4?

“While significant numbers of residents already travel to Swansea and Cardiff for work, one of the key aims of the plan is to minimise the need for travelling outside of the area to access employment. This is explained in full detail as part of the LDP’s employment background summary.”

 

Can local roads cope with more traffic?

“The key issue here is that any development which takes place must be sustainable. Comprehensive transport assessments have been prepared to consider the impact on the local highways network, while a strategic transport assessment is evaluating if associated infrastructure improvements are necessary.

“Put simply, a development would not be allowed to take place unless it could first demonstrate that it could also deliver necessary improvements.

“It should also be noted that the LDP reflects national planning policy which requires councils to develop effective active travel networks, as these encourage more people to find alternatives to using the car when accessing local facilities.”

 

What about the impact of large developments on wildlife and biodiversity?

“The LDP ensures that measures are in place to protect wildlife and biodiversity concerns, and developers must agree to appropriate conditions before any work starts.

“In the case of sites such as Island Farm and Merthyr Mawr, this would include the establishment of what has been called a ‘green lung’ linked to Newbridge Fields.

“An interconnected series of buffers would protect habitats, and the LDP would ensure that green landscaping, traffic reduction measures, highway improvements, heritage protection arrangements, increased walking and cycling links, improved public transport, effective drainage and more were all in place.

“Before any planning application could be determined, a developer would also need to submit ecological management plans showing how they would mitigate, enhance and maintain specific habitats, including for protected species such as bats and dormice.”

 

How do people take part in the consultation?

“You can view the plan and have your say by visiting the council website, and alternative formats are available on request.

“Don’t forget that copies of the LDP and its supporting documents are also available to view at local libraries throughout the county borough.

“The final deadline for taking part expires on Tuesday 27 July, so there is still plenty of time for you to take part and have your say.”