Tuesday, 2 March 2010

236 houses for old colliery site

Last night's planning committee voted for 236 houses to be built on the former Gatewen Colliery site outside New Broughton. Both Plaid Cymru councillors on the committee - Carrie Harper and Marc Jones - voted against. Here's why.

The huge estate had been granted outline planning permission back in 2003, when developers ruled and Wrecsam was in thrall to a massive building spree and rapid housing inflation.

Detailed plans for 215 houses in 2006 were refused on the grounds of too much traffic for a relatively poor B-road, yet a plan that involves MORE housing has been approved. The officers' logic is that the new scheme will provide a bus stop and a cycleway and this will help reduce car use.

Despite this, the plan offered to limit the building schedule to six a month on the grounds that the village couldn't cope with such a large development. What happens when the development is completed is not clear.

There was also concern about the affordable housing - this was just 20% rather than the usual 25% threshold and some of that was not being built to the approved standard. This echoes problems on the new estate in Brymbo, where the affordable housing was not built to a high enough standard and no housing association would take them on as a result. It also begs the question as to why we have a standard if we do not insist on developers meeting it. With that in mind, Cllr Hugh Jones successfully moved an amendment to ensure that all the affordable homes were to the DQR standard.

Some housing on the site was also deficient in terms of minimum separation distances - we were not told if these were the affordable homes on the site.

The developer opposed the planned contribution to educate the children who will live on this estate. This amounts to £487,000 towards primary education, which will not build a new school in an area that already has pressures on many of its primary schools.

There's no doubt that, as the local Cllr Alan Edwards made clear, something needs to be done on the old colliery site. But the scale of this estate is out of all proportion to local need and that's why we objected.

FOOTNOTE: It was curious to hear the developer's agent speak briefly in Welsh at the start of the meeting - a first perhaps for the planning committee? I wonder why JS Bloor (Wilmslow) Ltd chose to do that...

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