Housing plan expected to go ahead despite “scaremongering” residents' campaign
AN affordable housing development in Heath is expected to be approved, despite a “scaremongering” campaign by some residents. The development of 42 affordable homes on the former Highfields site in Allensbank Road, has been criticised by Heath Residents Association. They claim the plan will lead to increased traffic, increased population density and disruption to elderly neighbours.
But local independent councillor Fenella Bowden, who represents Heath and Birchgrove, claims the group are “scaremongering” elderly people who live nearby. The three storey buildings will consist of 12 two bedroom houses, 20 two bedroom flats, for open market, and 10 one and two bedrooms flats which will be council owned. The homes will meet Passivehaus standards, meaning they will be almost self sufficient. This makes the new builds more affordable because energy consumption will be low. Residents association member John Jones said: “The development will be double the density leading to increased traffic, additional parking problems and, importantly, the detrimental impact on the elderly and disabled people who live in the adjacent bungalows. “The bungalows will be just 21 metres away from the three storey block of flats which will overshadow and overlook their living areas and their gardens. Privacy will be lost, as will the afternoon sun.”
The site is currently empty but placards protesting the development have been placed in the area and residents opposite have displayed similar signs in their windows. Coun. Bowden said: “I have met with many of the residents who have no problem with the development. “They recognise that the area cannot remain an empty space forever and they are fearful of the land being sold to the commercial sector. Should that happen, any development on the site would not be as sympathetic as that which is being proposed. They also welcome some more council owned properties in the ward. “The scaremongering of these vulnerable older people within the sheltered accommodation in Heathmead by the petitioners has been appalling. “The Council has done extensive consultation with local residents, I think it’s been three times, and taken on board the comments, and made changes where possible. The Cabinet Member, Lynda Thorne, came to visit residents in the sheltered housing bungalows and spoke with many of them individually in their homes.” A petition organised by the residents association gathered 300 signatures from those who are against the development. There were also 130 objections at the pre-planning stage.
In November, 2017, Julie Morgan AM and Anna McMorrin MP objected to the development on behalf of their constituents. The council has worked with residents and amended plans to include increased parking spaces, inclusion of a zebra crossing and have moved the entrance of the site. William Potts, a local resident, explained his reasons for opposing the plan: “This proposed development is twice the density of the surrounding areas, a three story block of flats next to existing bungalows, no precedence for three story flats in the area at all, a block of flats that has no characteristics with the existing neighbourhood housing, two sets of terraced Mews houses that front almost directly on to the main road in total contrast with the houses opposite.”
Concerns over travel have also been raised. The area is already congested because University Hospital Wales is less than a mile away and only one, hourly, bus serves Allensbank Road. But Coun Bowden said: “Bus frequency can be changed in consultation with Cardiff Bus. The Metro will double capacity on the railways in our ward – eventually. “As a council, it is recognised that across the city the train services are not sufficient at peak times. We speculate that many of the properties will be occupied by UHW staff, or those in close proximity to their jobs. There is plenty of parking provision within the development and lots of bike stands.” But Mr Potts said: “There has been no plans put forward to enhance the bus services which will lead to more traffic and cars. The bus also finishes too early to even consider using the bus to travel to friends, shops, cinema or back in to town for social events.” Architects said their designs have considered the area’s aesthetics. Coun Bowden said: “The bulky part of the development will be contained within the middle of the site. The two bedroomed houses will be at the front of the site along Allensbank Road. There have been concerns about the design of the buildings but these have been approved by the Design Commission. “I have seen so many much higher, bulkier and denser developments than this around the Heath area to be honest, this one at Highfields will be tasteful and discreet by comparison.”
The site was once a water works and, later, a day centre for the elderly and those with disabilities until it was closed by Cardiff Council. Previous suggestions to build a multi storey car park which would serve University Hospital of Wales were turned down.
The matter will go to the Planning Committee on February 8