By Anthony Lewis
Plans for almost 300 houses on the site of the former Aberdare General Hospital site have been approved.
A full planning application for 299 homes on the site on Abernant Road in Abernant went before Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee on Thursday, February 23 and was given the go ahead.
The application site is made up of 17 hectares of land previously the site and
grounds of Aberdare Hospital of which two hectares are previously developed land.
The site is on the north western side of Abernant Road and north east of the river between Abernant and Robertstown on the lower eastern slopes of the Cynon Valley.
The planning report said that although it is very much part of Abernant, the site is close to the centre of Aberdare and would benefit from the amenities such as shops, pubs, schools, sport centre, the transport hub and other things.
The area of woodland and a field on the south western boundary of the site are
designated a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) under the Local
Development Plan, there are a number of group Tree Preservation Orders, some of the land is in a high coal risk area, there is an archaeological importance to the site and some of it is vulnerable to low risk overland flow
flooding, the report said.
Access for vehicles to the site is currently gained from the original hospital access from Abernant Road and proposals to improve that have previously been approved
The proposal from WDL Homes is that the entire development be served by a single means of access from Abernant Road in the form of a spine road that will track in a broadly northerly direction through the site to its north easternmost corner.
The remainder of the development will be served from a series of loop roads and cul de sacs (adopted and private) formed from the spine road.
The proposal involves keeping as much as possible of the woodland fringes
around the site at its entrance and around its fringes.
But the application said that thee nature of the woodland in the south west of the site is likely to be affected by the intention for it to be part of the Sustainable Urban Drainage System.
Why people objected
There were initially 21 letters of objection and comment relating to the application but after more details were submitted in December 2022, another round of public consultation was done and there were seven more submissions.
Concerns raised included planning policy issues, local housing market assessment and need issues, highways issues, infrastructure issues, trees and ecology, amenity issues, health issues and design issues among others.
Some of these concerns include whether the development meets the identified housing need in the area, that the houses along with other developments will “swamp” Abernant and the highway system will not be able to cope, an increased risk to pedestrians and concerns over the access.
They also say infrastructure issues have not been addressed clearly, that there will need to be extra places at Abernant Primary School and that the new houses will exacerbate the flood risk.
They also highlighted the presence of a SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation), raised concerns about the impact on protected species and trees and they said the development would have an adverse environmental impacts in relation to habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, air and noise pollution as well as potential impacts from being in a flood zone.
They said that an increase in car movements presents an air pollution problem and is likely to adversely affect air quality in the area, there are concerns over noise pollution from the development and concerns over how close the development will be to existing properties on Abernant Road leading to overlooking and an invasion of privacy and that these issues would be exacerbated by the removal of trees which were planted as a screen when the hospital was extended.
Why officers recommended approval
But planning officers recommended that the committee approved the application and they said in the planning report that the application is considered acceptable in principle.
They said that though the site is allocated for considerably more than the amount of houses currently proposed, the constraints the site faces in terms of ground conditions, ecology and highway requirements are substantial and justify fewer numbers of houses coming forward.
They said that impacts on the character and appearance of the area and on the privacy and amenity of the wider community are considered acceptable in policy terms and in the way that the development physically presents.
They said: “Sufficient detail has been provided to conclude that the impact of the proposals on the ecology of the area and trees in particular can be managed through the development process to the point where the obligation to preserve and enhance such features will be met.
“The proposals present no insuperable problems with regard to local infrastructure and broad design issues associated with the development are satisfactory.
“The impact on health in terms of the issues raised by objectors are adequately addressed.
“By far the greatest concern as far as local residents are concerned, has been the impact of the proposals on the local highway network.
“The proposals have been subject to extensive independent interrogation of the Transport Assessment and other supplementary submissions and Highways Development Control have concluded that the details are acceptable in terms of their impact on the highway network.
They said that this conclusion is considered “robust” as the applicants have been able to demonstrate acceptability through the transport assessment.
They highlight the previous use of the site as hospital to justify their position, trip reduction applied to social rented homes, the sustainable location of the site in terms of proximity to public transport and Aberdare town centre, impact improvements proposed to active travel links between the development and Aberdare town centre, increased opportunities for residents to work from home, the impact of the transport implementation strategy and Welsh Government policy and initiatives to address climate change and encourage increased use of sustainable modes of travel.
What councillors had to say
Local councillors Steven Bradwick and Victoria Dunn of Aberdare East spoke against the application at the meeting.
Cllr Bradwick raised concerns over highways issues and trees saying that he wanted a condition that no deliveries will take place at certain times of the day because of the school and hoped a management plan for the trees can be put in place.
He also said he hopes none of the dropped kerbs will be removed and he mentioned that there are no electric vehicle charging points included.
He said he does not agree with the application and although the building company is one of the best in south Wales but said that the highways report really needs to be readdressed.
Cllr Dunn said she’s pleased the site is being redeveloped and by a local developer with a good reputation but she doesn’t support it in its current form.
She said she is disappointed that little attention has been given to the housing needs of local people.
She also has concerns about how Abernant and the surrounding roads will be adversely affected by increased traffic and said that the potential for an accident is high.
But committee member Councillor Gareth Hughes said on parking that the reality is that there will be cars if the application is approved and provision needs to be provided.
He added that he’s yet to see an application of such a size in such a sustainable location and that there will be an economic benefit for the town.
He said given its previous use as a hospital, the trip generation and traffic movements would be similar.
He said they need good quality homes and they’ve been compliant with the number of affordable homes although he’d like to see more.
He said the development is “sympathetic” to the ecological impacts and the LDP allocates the site for more housing than is planned and said he can’t think of a better place to develop houses.
Fellow committee member Councillor Mike Powell called for a site visit on highways grounds and the visual impact but this was unsuccessful.
The contributions required from the developer
The Section 106 contributions required from the developer would be the provision of 10% affordable housing through the development, a financial contribution of £954,371 for education, a long term management plan for play areas, areas of public open space on the site, the agreement of a long term habitat and species mitigation, enhancement and compensation management plan for the ecologically sensitive areas of the site, the agreement of an Employment Skills Training Plan, a payment of £75,000 towards active travel improvements and the agreement of a £500,000 Travel Plan bond.
Picture courtesy of LDRS Partners – Google Maps