When developer Bellway pulled plans for 350 homes at Caerphilly’s Virginia Park Golf Club, residents and councillors breathed a sigh of relief.
Throughout the planning process, concerns over a loss of green space and an increase in traffic were raised.
It seemed those fears would not come to pass, but work on the site is now underway and residents have been left asking how this can happen.
Why did Bellway pull out of the development?
Outline planning permission for the development was provisionally granted in May 2019 and was finally granted in December 2019 once a Section 106 agreement was signed.
What’s a Section 106 agreement?
A Section 106 agreement is a legally binding private contract between a developer (or a number of
interested parties) and a Local Planning Authority (LPA) that operates alongside a statutory planning permission.
Such agreements require developers to carry out specified planning obligations when implementing planning
permissions and are the result of negotiations on these matters between the parties.
Improvements might mean road upgrades, new playgrounds or even a financial contribution to a scheme to encourage walking and cycling, for example.
By December last year however, developer Bellway Homes withdrew their application because they could not agree terms with the landowner.
How can work go ahead if the developers withdrew?
What they withdrew was actually a “reserved matters” application – this focuses on the finer details of the plans. The overall outline planning application still stands and is in place until 2024.
The area, a former landfill site, is currently being decontaminated and flattened, with drainage work also taking place to prepare the site for housing.
Contractors Prichard’s have written to Virginia Park residents to inform them of the work, which started on Monday, March 22.
Work is set to last for around six months, before a further six months of work next year, Prichard’s told Caerphilly Observer.
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s environmental health department and Natural Resources Wales both gave permission for the work to be carried out.
What were the original plans?
Before Bellway pulled out of the development, ‘high quality’ homes were promised in the outline planning application, along with a community centre, playing fields and children’s play areas.
Virginia Park Golf Club closed in March 2017 with falling membership numbers making the venture unviable.
The clubhouse, and surrounding ponds, would have been retained with the building serving as a local centre and complimented by a sports pitch.
Of the 350 homes planned as part of the development, just 25 were set to be affordable housing.
The development proposed 160 three-bedroom homes, 140 four-bedroom houses and 35 two-bedroom houses, as well as eight one-bedroom and four two-bedroom flats and three two-bedroom bungalows.
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What have councillors said?
Morgan Jones ward councillors Shayne Cook, Jamie Pritchard (both Labour) and Phil Bevan (Plaid Cymru) all opposed plans to build housing on the site, as did Caerphilly Town mayor Mike Prew (Plaid Cymru).
Cllr Cook said: “The landowner is within his rights to remediate the land within the law, but what residents oppose is any lack of care and consideration to the environment and the health and safety of others. We have long questioned and opposed housing on this site for a range of reasons.”
Cllr Pritchard said: “We have always worked to ensure the views of residents are put forward at all times. We have consistently urged the landowner to engage with the local community before starting remediation works to ensure everybody is able to have a point of contact.”
Cllr Bevan said: “We’ve been totally against it right from the start. We will oppose anything that comes up”.
Meanwhile, Cllr Prew said he will be “opposing any new proposal to develop the site at the first opportunity”.
He added: “I am told that the developer is removing contaminated material which was deposited many years ago when the site was used for a landfill and regulations were much looser.
“When I was supporting local residents opposing the current plans, I was concerned about the extent of potential hazardous materials dumped including lead, asbestos and arsenic. We need guarantees that these materials have not entered and will not enter the groundwater as a result of being disturbed by this work both on this site as well as adjoining housing areas.”
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