A VICTORIAN barracks last used as a Jehovah’s Witness kingdom hall near a busy petrol station, DIY store and a trunk road is to be converted to flats.
When plans for the building at Brecon Road, Abergavenny were first put forward it was also planned to build six new homes at the back of the hall as well as converting it to four flats.
But planning officer Andrew Jones told Monmouthshire County Council’s planning committee the new build element had been “removed entirely” following negotiations with the council’s planning case officer.
As the conversion of an existing building for less than five homes doesn’t trigger the council’s current affordable housing policies applicant Baileys, which also owns the DIY store nearby, hasn’t had make an affordable housing contribution.
Mr Jones said local residents and Abergavenny Town Council had raised concerns about the impact additional traffic would have.
The town council said: “The location has a junction with the A40, with access to a petrol station, access to a DIY and agricultural store, and a veterinary surgery. Detailed transport assessment on how the increased traffic will be managed needs to be in place before approving this application.”
Mr Jones said there would be nine parking spaces, including two for visitors, all accommodated on site meeting the council’s parking standards neither its highways department or the Welsh Government’s trunk roads agency had objected with, access to the site from a private drive leading to the the A40 that runs through the town.
He described the site, in the town conservation area, as a “sustainable location” as the town centre, bus station and train staton are all a “walkable distance”.
The ground and first floors of the building had been used as the kingdom hall up until the late 1990s with the third floor already a flat which isn’t subject to the planning application. Mr Jones said other than demolition of a lean to extension there is little alteration planned to the building which would be subject to a “very light touch conversion.”
Conservative councillor for Mitchell Troy and Trellech Jayne McKenna said: “I note there has been some local representations regarding highways but I think we have to look at this building’s previous use, it was a kingdom hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not myself a follower, I don’t know when they meet but I assume it’s probably at a dedicated time and you’d have a big volume of traffic all at the same time.
“This development would have people coming and going at different times rather than that flow of traffic like what it was previously used for and this will ease that traffic, I can’t see any issue with it.”
Mr Jones confirmed there is currently permission for use as a place of worship which would allow another community facility, such as a health centre, without the need for change of use permission.
Cantref Labour councillor Sara Burch described the junction at the site as “a mess”, which she blamed on “piecemeal” development of the old railway yard but said: “I don’t think this development will make it any more problematic than it is.”
Wyesham independent councillor Emma Bryn said following the committee’s site visit she noted there was no pavement to the site. She said: “There were cars parked on the left hand side of the road, I had to walk down the centre and just by the petrol station, as I was coming back down, one HGV was reversing up the lane and another was coming up and there were two people walking down.”
Mr Jones said the likely small impact of traffic from the development couldn’t justify a requirement for improvements off the site.
The committee approved the application with a condition that a soft landscaping plan be submitted after Croesonen Labour member Su McConnell asked if trees felled at the edge of the site could be reinstated.
Cllr McKenna had also asked whether a cycle stand could be included. Abergavenny Pen y Fal ward Tory Maureen Powell said leaving a bike in the open overnight may not be popular. She said: “I don’t think people would use it. Cycles are stolen all the time, my granddaughter, who lives in the middle of London, takes her’s in. People don’t want to leave them out when anyone can pick them up.”
Mr Jones said each of the flats have dedicated outside amenity space that could be used for storing a bike.