RESIDENTS living in one of Cardiff’s poorest areas said a new train station planned for land on their doorstep would be transformational.
However, some also questioned what good an accompanying new business park would do to a community which they say has been overlooked for years.
Cardiff Hendre Lakes and Cardiff Parkway train station, proposed for land to the south of St Mellons Business Park next to Hendre Lakes has gone through a lengthy planning process.
The development was approved by Cardiff Council in 2022 before being called in by the Welsh Government so that they could have the final say on it.
Planning applications are normally called in for determination by the Welsh Government if they are deemed to be of more than local importance.
A Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) hearing in July 2023 looked at the potential environmental impact of the scheme and whether it complies with Cardiff’s local development plan and the national development plan.
The independent planning inspector has completed and submitted a report on the development and his advice is currently being considered by the Welsh Government.
Here is what people living in Trowbridge and St Mellons had to say about the multi million pound plan which could significantly change their area.
Lilly Jones, who has lived in Trowbridge for 59 year, said she thought the plans for the new train station and business park looked good when she first saw them.
“But how will it serve the people of Trowbridge?” she said.
Commenting on Trowbridge generally, she said: “We had a wonderful shopping area, but we haven’t got one anymore. There is nothing here.”
One of the latest community assets to have disappeared in the area is the former Newbridge Inn on Abergele Road which closed down in August 2022.
Public transport has also taken a hit in recent months, especially after some of the service cuts and changes that Cardiff Bus made in September due to financial pressure and recovering passenger numbers.
Lilly’s daughter, Lynn Jones, said: “We used to have the 61 and the 61C, but we have got nothing now. The people of Trowbirdge have got nothing.
“I think [having a new station] would benefit people… when we go out we have got to get a taxi.”
On the prospect of a new business park, Lynn added: “It would be good if it could give people jobs and I think it would be good for Trowbridge and St Mellons, really.”
Next to the short row of shops on Abergele Road, about a five minute drive from where the new train station could be, Sarah Thomas said: “I think [the station] would be ideal because otherwise we would have to go into town.
“I would catch a train more if there was a station close by here.”
When asked what she thinks about the level of investment in the area, Sarah, 39, added: “Rubbish. I don’t think there has been much.
“The park by the field… they said they were going to do it all up and they never did.
“If [the business park] is used for the right thing and [in] the proper way… it is going to help build up the area and give it a better reputation than what it has at the moment.”
There are 20 train stations in Cardiff at the moment and all of them are east of the Rhymney River.
At the moment, it can take 40 minutes by bus for someone in Trowbridge to get to Cardiff Central station. To drive there, it would take about 25 minutes.
Cara Thomas, 27, said the area needs a train station. She added: “I am having to drive all the way into town to get [a train]. It is a nightmare.”
She said transport in the area is currently “horrible” and that she regularly has to go Cardiff Central station in order to see her partner who lives in Glastonbury.
Similarly to Sarah, she said she thinks her area has been overlooked. Cara said: “There is not really much here. The parks are absolutely horrible.”
The Cardiff Parkway station within the Hendre Lakes development will serve more than 800,000 passengers a year if it goes ahead and the scheme as a whole, including the business park, has the potential to support about 6,000 jobs.
Little is known about exactly which businesses could set up at the business park, but Cardiff Council’s head of economic development, Ken Poole, said at the planning hearing in July that an “iconic” technology firm is interested in moving in.
At Hendre Lakes, St Mellons resident Malcolm Lewis said he hopes the development will not have too much of an impact on the environment, but notes that the public transport benefits could be transformational.
“It will be a great advantage because of the transport around the trains as they are going into Cardiff,” he said.
“It gets so full you can’t even get on the train.”
Cerys Dabidge said: “I think it would be good for the community, the time that we take going into Cardiff and it would get the traffic off the roads.
“We also travel out to Cardiff a lot and go to Newport to catch the train.
“I think the people of St Mellons have been waiting a long time for this railway.”
Friends of the Gwent Levels has been vocal in its objections to the Hendre Lakes development, which will be built on a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
The Rumney and Peterstone SSSI includes reens and field ditches which is home to wide range of plants and wildlife, including some rare species.
As part of a proposed mitigation for the area, the developer, Cardiff Parkway Developments Ltd, has offered an area of land in compensation for any loss to the SSSI.
However, Friends of the Gwent Levels said at the planning hearing in July that they were sceptical as to whether or not this would result in a net gain biodiversity.
Cardiff Parkway Developments Ltd offered 4.4km of field ditches to the south of the railway development to replace the 3.96km of field ditches which will be filled in if the project goes ahead.
Campaigners and some residents also expressed concerns over the potential increase in congestion as a result of the new development.
There were certain areas of Trowbridge in the 10% most deprived areas in the Wales according to the 2019 Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.
The data also showed that the eastern half of the ward, where St Mellons is, was in the 50% least deprived areas in the country.
Census 2021 data showed that 51.7% of people aged 16 and over in Trowbridge at that time were economically active.
In Cardiff as a whole, 58.3% of people aged 16 and over were economically active at the time of the census.
Cardiff Council ward member for Trowbridge, Cllr Michael Michael said the Hendre Lakes development could transform one of the poorest areas in Wales.
He said: “I think it would be huge. Transport-wise it would be massive.
“Now, if you want to leave Trowbridge and St Mellons and get to the other side of the city you are talking 45 minutes to an hour.
“You will be able get there and get to town in seven minutes. There will be connections from there to other stations.
“There are other business parks obviously in and around the city. The attraction with this one is that it is brand new.
“I think it is important for us as a city and as a region to be able to attract those kinds of jobs – top quality jobs rather than having people leave and go somewhere else.”
When asked about the residents’ comments on Trowbridge being overlooked and the issue of poverty in the area, Cllr Michael added: “If the south of the city was an independent city, it would be the second largest and poorest city in Wales.
“There is a poverty problem. It is one of the things that concerns me, in that we need to build better council housing, we need more council housing.
“We have got people on the waiting list and at the end of the day, it is a balance.”
The councillor said he is not sure exactly what will happen to the Newbridge Inn yet, but maintained that the issue of its closure was not a Trowbridge problem.
He added: “It is a general UK-wide problem. Peoples’ habits change.
“We have got issues in the area. We are looking at finding some more sports facilities for kids. We are looking to see if we can provide a boxing club.
“We are working with Rumney Football Club. They have got a pitch there… and we are working with them to improve that and get better facilities for the sides there.”
A spokesperson for Cardiff Parkway Ltd said: “Everyone involved with Cardiff Parkway remains fully committed to the delivery of a sustainable, well-connected business district with public transport and active travel at its heart.
“Cardiff Parkway would be one of the first new stations to be delivered of those recommended by the Burns South East Wales Transport Commission, and will bring better connectivity, new jobs and investment to South Wales.
“During the recent call-in process, we have worked with a range of stakeholders, including Cardiff Council and Natural Resources Wales, to address any issues or concerns they may have had, and we have enhanced our already well considered approach to environmental management and mitigation.
“The news, which was announced recently in the Senedd, that Rolls-Royce is considering a base in East Cardiff, is a further illustration of the opportunity that Cardiff Parkway can bring.
“The ability to attract world class employers, who are looking for high quality business space, coupled with outstanding transport links, demonstrates what could be achieved if the project is able to progress.
“We remain extremely hopeful that consent will be granted soon, and East Cardiff can begin to benefit from improved infrastructure, enhanced transport links and investment.”
The Welsh Government has been approached for an update on when a decision can be expected on the development.
When asked in July, the Welsh Government said a decision will be made later in the year.