PLANS for 46 affordable homes to be built by a housing association in a Monmouthshire town are being recommended for approval.
The county council’s planning committee will meet next week to decide the application by Monmouthshire Housing Association for the new estate on an empty plot of land north of Caldicot Comprehensive School and opposite the back of the Asda supermarket off Woodstock Way. A pedestrian route through the site will also link the town centre to the leisure centre.
Council planners have recommended the committee approve the application which they say would “deliver 46 much needed affordable homes within a highly sustainable location on brownfield land” occupied by the school before its new building opened in 2017.
However Caldicot Town Council has objected and cited four reasons it believes the plan should be refused including its claim it had been promised for community use.
A report, by planning officer Amy Longford, to go before the committee when it meets at County Hall, in Usk, on Wednesday, January 10, states the town council has failed to justify its objections.
Ms Longford’s report also reminds the committee it can only consider the use put forward in the application but said affordable housing isn’t at odds with community use.
Her report said: “The use of the land for 100 per cent affordable housing is considered to be a benefit to the community and the proposal is considered to improve the public realm within the area and to provide enhanced pedestrian links within the town.”
A small part of the site has been designated, in the council’s local development plan, as an “area of amenity importance” which related to the former school playing fields. Ms Longford said that has since been developed as part of the Asda site and the circumstances of the area have changed and a housing estate isn’t at odds with the policy “that aims to preserve active amenity space for local residents”.
The other reasons the local council called for the plan to be rejected are a claimed lack of information in the application, a lack of consultation with the local community and “inadequate links with active travel”.
But Ms Longford said the council had failed to say what information was lacking in the application, which is supported by more than 80 documents including detailed reports, and the planning department is satisfied has been provided.
It’s also noted there has been more consultation than required for the type of application and the applicants conducted a pre-application consultation including public meetings in Caldicot.
Ms Longford said her report also covers active travel questions with bicycle storage to be provided on the site which is “easily accessible” from the bus stop on Woodstock Way and Caldicot Train Station is a half mile walk from the site.
Only parking space per house will be provided, with 32 being electric vehicle spaces, which is below the council’s parking standard, but the report states this is acceptable as Welsh planning policy encourages lower levels, or parking free, developments in suitable locations such as town centres and with public transport connections.
The report also states that car ownership among residents living in social rented homes, in Monmouthshire, is lower than among those in open market housing by around half. The report states 88 per cent of the county’s more than 5,200 socially rented households have either no car, at 46 per cent, or one car (42 per cent).
Access will be from the existing entrance from Woodstock Way and the development will include a terrace of two-storey houses, nearest to the school, and blocks of two and three-storey flats with all housing built around a a central area of open space.
The design is described as “contemporary” and inspired by the modern, brown brick high school and other nearby buildings. All the homes will make use of renewable energy, including solar panels, and designed without using fossil boilers or space heating to meet the most recent Welsh quality standards.
Monmouthshire County Council had initially intended to develop its own housing on the site but in October last year the new Labour cabinet said it wasn’t in a position to establish its own house building company, as it intended, but would work with Monmouthshire Housing Association to develop 100 per cent affordable homes.
At that time it was intended to sell the site to the housing association but the report states the application is presented to the committee as the land is in the council’s ownership.