It’s been revealed that Network Rail – the body that owns all of Britain’s rail tracks – is now interested in developing what’s called a “Transport Interchange” at Cogan Hill ( adjoining Cogan Station).
The revelation of what could become Penarth’s new “Super-station” came to light as the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee was again considering last night a scheme to build a massive 5-storey block of 44 “affordable” apartments for a registered social-housing landlord at the “Gateway to Penarth” . It would be the very first thing that people coming into the town would see.
The original scheme for the site had been only for a 34 apartment development.
…However an internal council report has now confirmed that Network Rail has a “preference that the site [ on which the apartment block would be built] is brought back for use as a transport interchange”. This declaration has now thrown a cat-amongst-the-pigeons as far as the social housing apartment development is concerned
Councillors were told that the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Transport and road safety officer has already been “working with Welsh Government to investigate the use of the site as a transport interchange.” It’s the first time the idea of a “transport interchange” at the Cogan Hill/ Cogan Station location has been publicly mentioned.
Planning chairman Cllr Fred Johnson – not for the first time – intimated that he thought the proposed apartment block would “not get built” (he had said the same thing in the previous planning meeting but the rail development had not been mention then) .
The planning committee however had no option but to go on to consider the Apartment Block proposal – irrespective of whether there is now more than an element of doubt about its construction – and Cllr Johnson ended up voting for it – even though he said he believes the Transport Interchange scheme is preferable.
THE DEBATE ON THE APARTMENT BLOCK:
When the Cogan Apartment Block scheme had been considered in an earlier meeting Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) who is the Vale’s ‘cabinet’ member for Transport had expressed is concerns about the already high levels of air pollution in the Cogan/Windsor Road area. He was worried that the massive apartment block would add to what he called “the Canyon Effect” in Cogan which concentrated vehicle exhaust fumes in an area already designated as pollution problem area [an AQMA or Air Quality Management Area] .
However Vale Council planning head Victoria Robinson said that the planning officers in the Vale’s “Shared Regulatory Services” department had confirmed that “they are satisfied with the conclusions of the Air Quality Assessment” .
The un-named planning officer carrying out the latest assessment also knocked-down the “Street-Canyon-Effect” theory – saying “based on the location of the proposed development and the apparent ‘unlike-Street-Canyon’ characteristics surrounding the development I can confirm that I do not believe that the proposed development would enhance or extend a Street-Canyon Effect”.
Cllr King said ” I am beaten down by people who know more about it [ the Canyon Effect] than I do – but I do remain concerned about Air Quality in that area”.
Cllr King as ‘cabinet’ Transport member said he was “uncomfortable” about the Network Rail statement on the now-proposed “Transport Hub” for Cogan – but noted that the Network Rail statement would not be grounds in itself to decline [the planning application for the apartment block] . He said he would consequently abstain from voting on the planning application.
Not only was there the complication of the embryo Network Rail Transport Interchange but the Vale planning committee had also got itself in a tangle because it had approved an early scheme for a similar 34-apartment block on the site. This scheme had not gone ahead and no legal agreement had been entered into.
Chairman Fred Johnson asked Planning Head Victoria Robinson whether the council would now get itself into difficulties should it turn down this latest application. Robinson said the planning rules hadn’t changed a lot since the previous application had been made -[ i.e. the council would be in difficulties if it now refused the updated – larger- apartment scheme ] .
Cllr Bob Penrose (Independent Sully) pointed out that there appeared to be a big difference between that earlier planning application and the current one. The original had been for 34 apartments in a 3 storey building whereas the current one was for 44 apartments in a 5 storey building .
Cllr Johnson said there wasn’t a big difference n the respective heights of the earlier and the later proposed development
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) who is reportedly stepping down from the Vale Council at the May elections said “As I speak I feel I am beaten here . I have deep concerns . It’s not a Conservation Area but it is the ‘Gateway to Penarth ‘ . Penarth’s business is tourism and [this proposed building] is so oppressive – right on the road to Penarth – it really concerns me.”
Cllr Roberts said “I know how much we need affordable housing – and this offers 44 [homes] – a very substantial number in relation to the size of Penarth – so we should be supporting it and the town council reluctantly supported it for those reasons. But this is a huge oppressive site right on the road”.
Cllr Roberts proposed that the design be modified to make it “less oppressive on the street scene”. He said he would abstain from voting on it .
Cllr Bob Penrose proposed that the committee defer consideration of the plan to give the developer an opporturnity to come back with a scheme more in keeping with what the original scheme had been . A more sympathetic scheme could be suggested – he said
Head of planning Victoria Robinson said she had no measurements to hand for the previous proposed block – but Cllr Andrew Parker – handily an architect in his own right – set-to with the scale drawings to establish that the proposed new building was actually 75cm lower than the original.
Plaid Cymru councillor Nick Hodges told chairman Fred Johnson “You’ve had this proposal before the committee two times in a row. You have said you do not think this will ever get built. Why are we wasting outr time with it?”.
Cllr Johnson said “I think it’s vital for a transport hub in that location . It is wanted and necessary – but I have to go with what is before me tonight [ i.e. the apartment block proposal]. If you are asking me what my preference is – it’s for a Transport Hub “
The “officer’s recommendation” ( to approve the scheme) was then voted-on and carried.