Planning for Towy Valley cycle path approved

PLANS for the main section of a cycle path along Carmarthenshire’s Towy Valley have been approved, although the easternmost section to Llandeilo has been dropped.

A planning officer told members of the council’s planning committee that the short stretch between Ffairfach and Llandeilo was being omitted because of a proposed road bypass.

The Towy Valley Path has always been billed as linking Carmarthen with Llandeilo, but it will stop around a kilometre short. A Llandeilo bypass has been talked about for years and is being looked into by the Welsh Government, although no firm details have emerged as yet.

Parts of the Towy Valley Path’s western section, which starts at Abergwili on the outskirts of Carmarthen, have been built. The new planning approval is for a longer, 14km stretch between Whitemill and Ffairfach.

The planning officer said it would cross a number of farms but that all existing accesses would be retained. Disruption during construction, he said, would be kept to a minimum.

Councillors asked about flood risk, given that the section between Llanarthne and Ffairfach would flood four times a year, based on data going back 32 years.
Llanegwad councillor Mansel Charles said the path would boost the economy and that the plans looked wonderful, but that he knew very well the detrimental impact that flooding had, with “many, many acres underwater”. He also asked where path users would park.

The planning officer said signs on the path would automatically trigger to say it was closed when river levels reached a certain level, and that it would be inspected after flood events.

He added there were 30 parking spaces at the Abergwili end of the path, other spaces near the path at Dryslwyn Castle, close to Llanarthne, but no designated spaces were currently proposed at Ffairfach.

Cllr Terry Davies asked how the emergency services would get to an injured cyclist, and was told there were a number of access points along the route and that police and fire services had not highlighted any concerns.

Cllr Gareth Thomas said the project sounded exciting but that it was “the biggest thing that has come before us in regards to the environment”.
Trees would be lost, he said, and farms “split in half”, with badger setts potentially disturbed and their occupants potentially “causing more problems” when they moved on.

The planning officer said the application, which prompted five objections, came with a significant amount of environmental reports and involved a “really thorough assessment”. He said the equivalent of one-and-a-half trees would be planted for every tree cut down and that, combined with various environmental improvements, there would be a net biodiversity gain.

The committee also heard that staggered barriers could be installed on the path if speeding cyclists were impacting on other users’ safety, and that bins would be provided at certain intersections.

Cllr Russell Sparks said the Towy Valley Path would be a safe and traffic-free way for families to cycle, and congratulated the authority for securing £16.7 million of UK Government funding for the project.

The planning committee voted in favour of the Whitemill to Ffairfach section, with only one of the 15 present abstaining.

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