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Villagers warn Cot Hill lane closure could lead to crashes

Street view of Cot Hill in Llanwern, Newport (Credit: Google)

A RURAL lane on the edge of Newport could be sealed off after councillors reluctantly gave plans the green light.

One member of the planning committee said members felt “bulldozed” into approving a proposal to shut off part of Cot Hill, in Llanwern, to traffic.

Developer Redrow is building a major housing development nearby, and has already secured planning permission to close Cot Hill and open a new “spine road” connecting the new homes to the village.

Members of the local community have condemned a new junction built by the firm, arguing it is dangerous and will lead to crashes.

They believe Cot Hill should remain open until the junction, with nearby Station Road, is improved.

In a tense meeting on Wednesday January 11, members of the planning committee were told any concerns about Station Road fell outside the scope of the proposed closure of Cot Hill.

Andrew Ferguson, the council’s planning and development manager, said the local authority had sought legal advice on the matter, and the committee could risk a battle in the courts with Redrow if it failed to honour its 2019 commitment to close Cot Hill.

Zoe Aubrey, Redrow South Wales’ senior planning manager, told the committee its job was “not to decide whether Cot Hill should be closed”, but rather that the proposed manner of the closure was acceptable in planning terms.

She said Redrow had sought to “engage with the community” on the matter.

Oliver Davies, whose family owns a nearby equestrian centre, told the committee the Station Road access was “not safe” for heavy goods vehicles and “not fit for purpose”.

Ward councillor Martyn Kellaway said there was a “genuine safety concern” over the new Station Road route, and warned there “will be an accident if we don’t do something about that junction before closing Cot Hill”.

He called for the developer and the council to make a “cast-iron guarantee” the road would be improved.

Andrew Hardiman, the council’s transport engineer, told the committee he was “not comfortable that… Station Road is fit for purpose”, but noted the council had been advised that the junction’s suitability was not to play a part in the decision to close Cot Hill.

Mark Howells was one of several committee members who expressed concerns about approving the Cot Hill closure while locals were concerned about the Station Road junction.

“In all good conscience I cannot support an application like this,” he said.

Colleague John Reynolds said he felt “very uncomfortable” with the proposal, and committee member John Jones said he feared that “if there’s an accident further down the line, it’s on us”.

Mr Ferguson warned the committee members it could be considered “unlawful” if they defied advice to approve the closure of Cot Hill, because the proposal was considered “acceptable” in planning terms.

“In my view we are entering the territory of unreasonable behaviour,” he added.

The committee heard that Redrow would still need to apply for a traffic regulation order, from the council’s highways department, before the road could actually be closed.

Members of the planning committee will also be allowed to write to the highways department with any concerns about the proposal.

Ultimately, the committee agreed to approve the terms of the closure, despite some abstentions, and the comments from Cllr Jones that he felt he and his colleagues had been “bulldozed” into a decision.

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