News | Saul Cooke-Black - Local Democracy Reporting Service | Published: 14:33, Wednesday June 17th, 2020.
Last updated: 14:33, Wednesday June 17th, 2020
A ‘flagship’ housing scheme for up to 125 homes on the site of former council offices in Pontllanfraith has been rejected by councillors.
Councillors went against the advice of planners by refusing permission for the plans on the former Pontllanfraith House site at a planning committee meeting today (Wednesday, June 17).
The scheme, a collaboration between Caerphilly County Borough Council and housing association Pobl, included 83 affordable homes but it faced opposition over its impact on the Sir Harold Finch Memorial Park.
The park was named in memory of the former MP who represented Bedwellty between 1950 and 1970 and it was designated a site of special scientific interest in 1987.
A petition to save it from housing development was signed by 1,308 people, saying building on the site would “alter the landscape forever.”
A planning report said the housing plan would encroach onto 1.4 hectares of the park, which is around 13% of its overall area.
Speaking after the meeting, Beverley Harmer, the granddaughter of the former MP, said she was “so happy.”
“We were horrified from the beginning,” Ms Harmer said.
“We could not understand why they were doing it.
“They kept denying that they were building on the park but the land registry stated different.”
Ms Harmer said she hopes the law can now be used to “put a full stop” to the plans and protect the park’s future.
A council spokesman said it is “obviously disappointed” by the decision, saying the scheme would offer “much needed social and affordable homes to meet significant local housing need”.
A further report will now be submitted to the next planning committee with reasons for refusal, where councillors will be asked to consider whether they wish to formally reject the application.
The outline application proposed 66% affordable housing, with 42 social rent homes, 41 low cost ownership and 42 for market sale.
A mixture of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroomed flats and houses were included in the proposals.
Planning officers had recommended approval, saying the level of housing would bring “a substantial benefit to the local community” which outweighed the loss of part of the memorial park.
Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge said he was “pleased” by the decision, saying the current scheme is “not fit for purpose”.
“Housing should only be built on the site of the former council office site, and the numbers reduced accordingly,” he said.
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