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New flats approved for historic area of Cardiff despite heritage concerns

A computer generated image showing what the flats at Wedal Road, Cardiff could look like once built (Pic: Spring Design)

NEW flats have been approved for a historic area of Cardiff despite concerns around the impact they could have on its heritage.

Members of Cardiff Council’s planning committee raised a number of concerns around the visual impact that a block of 23 flats planned for Wedal Road, near Roath Park, could have on the area with one councillor criticising its flat-top “box” design.

Concerns were also raised about the proposed three-to-five-storey height of the building and plans to cut down mature trees to make way for it.

The councillor for a neighbouring ward, Cllr Robert Hopkins, said he appreciated the need for housing but added that “further work is needed to make the development fit better within the conservation area”.

Planning officers said they felt the application was well-balanced and the committee’s chair, Cllr Ed Stubbs, said the type of homes being put forward are “desperately needed” in the city.

A member of the planning committee, Cllr Garry Hunt, said Cardiff is “crying” out for more accommodation but added: “I would [have] extreme concern about whether this is in keeping with the conservation area.”

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The flats, proposed by Wales and West Housing Association, are earmarked for land in northwest corner of the Roath Park Conservation Area.

It is an area surrounded by streets lined with Victorian and Edwardian-style buildings – a point picked up on by Cllr Hunt, who said the nearby park is also in keeping with the design of those periods.

The Youth Hostel Association building that used to occupy the Wedal Road site was demolished in 2018.

Cllr Hunt added: “I understand this is right on the edge of the conservation area… but I think that this is out of keeping with the conservation area and I think it is unfortunate.”

Wales and West Housing initially sought permission to build a three-to-six-storey building comprising of 27 flats but this was later amended following talks with the council.

Another member of the planning committee, Cllr Peter Wong, said the plans represented a “really excellent use of space within a brownfield site” but cautioned that giving favour to the need for social housing “cannot be without exception”.

He added: “We have conservation rules in place… for a purpose. I understand it is on the edge of it but it is in the area.”

Cllr Adrian Robson agreed with his committee colleague that “we need to treat our conservation areas seriously”.

Cllr Robson, along with Cllr Hunt, also raised concerns about the loss of mature trees that will result from the development.

The developers have proposed to offset this loss by planting nine new trees on site.

Cllr Michael Michael, also on the planning committee, said: “I am disappointed that once again social housing has given us a box design.”

He criticised social housing providers for what he saw as “dumbing down” on design in a “mad rush” to get their proposals over the line.

However council planning officer Steve Ball said he disagreed with this comment, adding: “I do think generally they are very good-quality developments.

“They do put a lot of detail into the brick work… [and] design of the development.”

He went on to add that officers and committee members can only consider what is in front of them and that “the balance in front of us is appropriate”.

Committee chair Cllr Stubbs said: “Within the planning balance we have to be mindful of what that is seeking to achieve.

“We know that there is a severe lack of social housing in this city… many people on the waiting list are looking for this sort of housing.”

He said the design of the building is a subjective matter and he thought the proposed development had been “done in a way that I think is quite innovative”.

A proposal by Cllr Hunt to defer the application, seconded by Cllr Wong, for reasons of refusal based on the design and size of the building and proposed loss of trees was voted down.

The proposal was approved subject to conditions and the developer entering into a legal agreement with the council, known as a section 106 agreement, which could mean the provision of more than £31,000 for a new public open space and ensuring that all the homes proposed are affordable housing.