A NEW estate of nearly 50 fully affordable homes to be built and managed by a housing association has been approved for a Monmouthshire town.
The application will see a terrace of two-storey houses and blocks of two and three-storey flats built around a central area of open space on what was the site of Caldicot High School before it moved to a new build south of the site.
However Caldicot Town Council objected to Monmouthshire Housing Association’s application for 46 new homes as it said the land had previously been promised by the county council for community use.
At Monmouthshire County Council’s planning committee Labour member for nearby Dewstow, Tony Easson, said he didn’t object to new affordable housing which he acknowledged is needed but said there had been a referendum put forward by the unitary authority’s previous Conservative deputy leader, the late Bob Greenland, on the future of the school fields.
Cllr Easson said there had been a “big controversy” in Caldicot over the sale of the site to Asda, which now has a supermarket on the opposite side of Woodstock Way, and he said a referendum had supported the land being used only for sporting or community use by two to one.
He said he would abstain, and that the council should have “gone back to Caldicot Town Council and the people, not just override them.
“What would the people of Abergavenny think if you had housing put on Bailey Park or Chippenham Fields in Monmouth? I do not believe the people of Caldicot have been given due regard.”
Planning committee chairman, Caerwent Conservative Phil Murphy, who was also a member of the council cabinet at the time of the referendum in 2011, said his “personal view” was “things have moved on I don’t see it as a suitable site for that sort of recreation.”
The council’s head of planning Craig O’Connor said councillors had to decide the application before them, which was recommended for approval, and not whether the site should have been brought forward for development. He also said affordable housing could be considered a community use.
Concerns were also raised at the width of a lane and height of a wall behind the terrace of 17 houses, nearest the school, and lighting which Labour member Su McConnell said made her “worried for women and children.”
Planning officer Amy Longford said the Welsh Housing Standards require the lane as a fire escape but access will be limited to residents of the 17 houses with lockable gates at either end, as well as to their own back gardens and lighting would be motion sensitive.
Wyesham independent councillor Emma Bryn said: “Lord knows we need more affordable housing in Monmouthshire though I’m a little concerned about their brutalist design.”
The houses are intended to reflect the brown brick design of the modern comprehensive school building.
Cllr Bryn said she also wanted to know if the public spaces could be protected for children to play on rather than being “dug up by vehicles” and asked if a two-way road through the site was necessary.
Ms Longford said highways had raised concerns about a one-way system, first proposed, for the “very tight site” but the path through the estate, which will also connect with the leisure centre, will have raised pedestrian crossing areas.
Magor East with Undy Labour member John Crook questioned if the authority could have done more to seek the views of the town council, especially as other affordable housing developments are brought forward, but also asked: “If the town council are interested why aren’t they here today to put their point of view forward?”
St Arvans councillor Ann Webb said Monmouthshire had been “one of the first councils in Wales to encourage town and community councils” to speak at planning meetings.
The Conservative said: “Town and community councils complain they are not consulted and have no input on applications I feel sad no-one is here from the town council today.”
The application was approved by 12 votes with one abstention.