PLANS for a £200 million Wellness and Life Science Village in Llanelli have been unanimously approved.
Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee’s decision, however, will now be referred to the Welsh Government.
Ministers will decide whether or not to call the outline application in before approval is actually granted, or otherwise.
The committee’s approval was also subject to environment body Natural Resources Wales (NRW) signing off further flood modelling assessments.
Planning officer Robert Davies said NRW had “significant concerns” on this matter but that it did not formally object to the application.
Built over five years, the Wellness and Life Science Village on council-owned land at Delta Lakes will deliver a wellness hub featuring a new leisure centre and swimming pool, a community health hub featuring healthcare facilities and business development space, a life science centre for research and business expansion, a range of assisted living accommodation, sports facilities, and an upgraded lakeside landscape.
Councillor Kevin Madge said: “It is vital that this goes ahead. Llanelli deserves this, and Carmarthenshire deserves it.
“You have got to support it. We need the jobs. We need the investment, and we need the healthcare as well.”
But he urged planning officers to ensure that decent public transport running late into the evening was provided to and from the development, and that steps were taken to encourage bird life.
The 23-hectare site is part of a wider area south of Llanelli town centre which had significant industrial use after being reclaimed from marshland.
The planning report before the committee said the project tackled many different aspects of social exclusion and health inequality, created a destination in its own right, and provided employment, residential and leisure opportunities.
It said Carmarthenshire had a higher percentage of people aged over 65 and 85 than the Wales average, and that wards in the south of Llanelli had high levels of deprivation and unemployment.
The construction of the Wellness and Life Science Village is expected to create 160 to 210 full-time jobs, and potentially 1,500 to 1,800 jobs when fully up and running.
Some 620 parking spaces will be required, although the exact number has yet to be finalised.
Five routes in and out of the village are planned, and the first of the buildings are due to be ready from September 2021 onwards.
But objector and Llanelli rural councillor Sian Caiach said she feared a “huge tidal surge” which struck the area in 1896 could happen again.
Referring to the site, she said: “Perhaps we are trying to put lipstick on a pig. I don’t agree we should put anything by the coast.”
Planning agent Damian Barry, of Arup, said the outline scheme submitted by the county council fully aligned with its local development plan.
He said of the village: “It will unite areas of deprivation and affluence in this part of Llanelli.”
Councillor John Prosser, in whose Glanymor ward the village is to be built, said he had concerns over various investigations relating to the project — one of the largest City Deal projects for the region — but said he would support the application, albeit with a wish that Welsh ministers called it in.
Committee chairman, councillor Alun Lenny, had advised colleagues from the outset that these investigations “need not and must not” concern them during their deliberations.
Councillor Tyssul Evans described the application as “one of the most exciting” he had seen in nearly 20 years.
“I think this is the jewel in the crown,” he said. “It will revitalise Llanelli to such an extent we won’t know what has hit us.”
There are wider proposals for a hotel, housing and an “eco-park” on neighbouring sites.
Just before the vote took place, Cllr Lenny said Llanelli had gone into a gradual decline over recent decades, and that unemployment had risen.
He felt the village would address these issues and create other possibilities.
“Hopefully it will regenerate areas of poverty to the north of the site,” he said.