Councillors cast anxious glances at each other as half a dozen local residents walked en mass into this week’s meeting of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee.
The residents were there specifically to challenge the latest [Mark III] version of the controversial planning application submitted by the Labour-Party-dominated Newydd Housing Association to develop the St Paul’s Church site and turn it into a densely-packed development of rented apartments for “social housing“.
The developers Newydd Housing Association and WYG have found it necessary to make further changes to the plans – and therefore a new, amended, planning application has had to be submitted.
It now transpires that the latest plans indicate an intention to tear-up the pavement alongside St Paul’s – called “Chapel Lane” – a factor that hasn’t featured in earlier consultations . People will be expected to walk on the road instead.
The chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) had earlier noted a “Housing Strategy” report which claimed that the current “established need in Penarth for one-bedroom apartments was 202“and that the requirement for two-bedroom apartments is currently 147.
Cllr Humphrey invited Tim Land of the St Paul’s Church Community Group to address the committee.
Mr Land reminded the planning committee that it had deferred a decision on the previous version of the St Paul ‘s scheme pending information about the viability of the original stone frontage of the development -[ the only part of St Paul’s which would be left standing and integrated in the overall scheme. He said there was no further information on the Vale Council’s internet planning portal about this and reminded members there was also a question of “planning aesthetic “.
The planned accommodation in the St Paul’s development crams in well over 30 – possibly 40 – social housing tenants – but only provides 5 parking spaces for their cars – and the cars of their visitors.
Mr Land reminded the committee of a “parking appraisal” which had included a survey of available street-parking in the vicinity of St Paul’s. However the survey had been “misleading” in assessing the number of available street-parking spaces and had left out roads such as King St, Salop St and Coronation Terrace. The survey HAD however included places Paget Terrace – some distance away – which “curiously enough, offers more parking”
Criticising the parking appraisal, Mr Land said parking observations had not been carried out at peak times and added “the survey area is seriously flawed, and suggests the deliberate exclusion of certain streets closest to the site”.
Mr Land also pointed out that a Newydd Housing project in Barry had allocated one parking space for every apartment – but this was not the case at St Paul’s. He said cars would continue to be an integral means of transport in South Wales and that cost-effective electric vehicles would become the standard (i.e. electric cars will still need parking spaces). The St Paul’s apartments he said were designed to have a life of 70 years .
He added that “the current number of parking spaces would suggest that St Paul’s residents are to be discouraged from car ownership “ and said that lack of provision for the influx of cars [owned by the St Paul’s tenants ] into the area is “a critical design flaw” in the St Paul’s development.
Summing up, he said the Newydd Housing plans for St Paul’s would contain “too many units” and would add to the “overdensity” of residential units in that area.
Mr Land then revealed that the latest Newydd Housing Association plans now included the removal of footpath [ i.e. pavement] in Chapel Lane – the narrow lane which runs alongside the left side of St Paul’s when looking at the front of the building.
He said that originally the Vale of Glamorgan Council had set a requirement that the pavement should be “re-constructed” after building work was complete However there is now a requirement that Chapel Lane has to be made wider in order to accommodate fire-fighting vehicles. Mr Land said the existing pavement on Chapel Lane would have to be removed.
Mr Land said many people used that pavement. It was part of the infrastructure of the area – and it appeared it was now to be removed. He said the amended design would take away pedestrian access at the rear of the site, removed the amenity area – (the grassy area where residents were to have sat in the sun), would remove the bin stores to a more difficult area and only part of Chapel Lane would be re-surfaced – the rest of it, he said, would be “left in a dilapidated state”.
He re-iterated that too many dwellings were proposed for the St Paul’s site and there was just not enough local infrastructure to support them.
Planning chairman Cllr Nigel Humphrey said the latest plans indicated there would still be [only] 5 parking spaces provided on site, some windows had been changed in response to complaints about “overlooking” and there was now the widening of the highway by the removal of the footpath [ i.e. pavement] in Chapel Lane. He said issues regarding the “parking appraisal” had been highlighted before. Neither he nor any of the other members of the planning committee responded to the other points made by Tim Land.
Cllr Humphrey said that the planning committee had recommended there should be further public consultation on the issue of the retention of the St Paul’s front facade. He had been told that officers had not been able to get in to the St Paul’s building – possibly for health and safety reasons – to carry out a survey of the facade. Cllr Humphrey said there had not been much further discussion on the question of removing or retaining the facade. It was however a condition that the front window be retained – but it was not known whether that would be “an actual window for rooms behind or effectively a big lighting box”.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said the planning committee appeared to be no further forward towards making a recommendation on the St Paul’s planning application.
Cllr Jon Luxton (Labour Stanwell) said the developer’s public consultation had used “poor methodology” and there was “unhappiness amongst the residents“. He said “those voices need to be heard much more they have been”.
Cllr Turner said the local population had “made it clear to the Vale Council what their thoughts are” .
Summing up, Cllr Humphrey said the committee thought there should be further public consultation before the committee made a recommendation on the application to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
He added “bearing in mind the need for affordable housing we are quite keen to see something happening”.
The Leader of Penarth Town Council Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) is a shareholder in the Newydd Housing Association and withdrew from the committee whilst the St Paul’s planning application was under discussion.
[ PDN Note: The scheme to re-develop St Paul’s Church as social housing apartments is said to have been originally cooked-up – out of the public eye – by the previous Labour administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Thoughout the entire planning process the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council has not issued any formal comments or recommendations which are critical of the St Paul’s scheme.]