CONTENTIOUS plans for up to 850 houses in Penllergaer will be debated at a remote Swansea Council meeting this week, despite pleas from objectors to attend in person.
Hundreds of people oppose the development at Parc Mawr, Penllergaer, and want to express their opposition to the council’s planning committee when meetings are held in public again.
But the council said the application by Bellway Homes will, due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions, be debated by the committee remotely on Friday (July 17) and that objectors’ comments and letters will be considered up to the day before the meeting.
It added that the committee will only be able to reject the application or indicate its approval due to a “holding direction” from the Welsh Government which prevents permission actually being granted.
The meeting is due to be live-streamed.
Penllergaer Councillor Wendy Fitzgerald said she wanted the meeting to be delayed.
“About 700 individual objections have been submitted, plus several more from the (Penllergaer) community council, on behalf of residents,” she said.
“It is surely reasonable that objectors should expect to be able to attend the decision-making process in person and witness how the planning committee, as an entity, determines an application of this magnitude which will have far-reaching consequences.”
She added: “Whilst it may be lawful to determine a controversial, high profile planning application remotely, I would suggest it is morally insensitive and not in the best interests of democracy to do so in this manner during a time of national emergency.”
A council spokesman said that all objections will be considered by the committee.
He added: “In the absence of the public being able to make representations on the day, we have also introduced a process giving the public the opportunity to make written representations up to the day before the committee meets – and this has worked well so far.”
Planning committee chairman Cllr Paul Lloyd said remote meetings were the only option at present.
He added: “We have held remote meetings where we’ve heard applications that have attracted public interest, such as the former Townhill campus and the former Oceana site on The Kingsway.”
Bellway Homes is seeking outline planning consent for up to 850 houses, to be delivered in phases, and detailed planning consent for 184 of them – with these 184 to be accessed off Brynrhos Crescent.
A new link road from the Parc Mawr site to the main road to the north – the A4240 – is to be built when the 185th house is occupied.
Other new accesses will be created onto the A483 to the east and the A484 to the south at later stages.
Penllergaer Community Council has objected to the application on numerous grounds, including the loss of agricultural land, impact on surrounding roads, and the proposed access off Brynrhos Crescent, which it said it not been put forward initially.
Objectors say that 850 houses is too many, and worry that congestion at the nearby M4 junction will worsen, and that capacity at schools in the area was already at full stretch.
One person has written to support the application, saying affordable housing in the area was very limited.
Bellway Homes will be expected to deliver or fund a new primary school, retail space, create plus two sports pitches and a pavilion, a BMX track, and a multi-use games area.
It must also fund some nearby road improvements, and provide 20% affordable housing.
These obligations have trigger points setting out when they need to be delivered.
Planning officers have recommended approval of the application, with 67 planning conditions, subject to Bellway Homes signing a legal agreement to fulfill its various obligations.
The officer report said: “With regards to viability, the applicant has not indicated that the proposals would render the scheme unviable.”