A PROPOSED £6m expansion of a south Pembrokeshire holiday park next to historic ironworks has been backed by planners despite a warning it would be “catastrophic” for residents.
The application for the works at Heritage Park, Pleasant Valley/Stepaside, which had attracted hundreds of objections, had been recommended for refusal at the September 5 meeting of the council’s planning committee for a second time, following a recent site visit.
The controversial scheme includes the installation of 48 bases for holiday lodges, a spa facility at a former pub, holiday apartments, a café and cycle hire, equestrian stables, a manège and associated office, and associated works.
Heritage Leisure Development (Wales) Ltd, is proposing a £6m investment at the site, next to the historic remains of the 19th century Stepaside ironworks and colliery, which it says will create 44 jobs.
The application has seen 245 objections raised, as well as a 38-page objection from Stepaside & Pleasant Valley Residents’ Group (SPRG), along with concerns from local community councils, and rural campaign group the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW).
Agent Helen Ashby-Ridgway has previously said the development, which would include a five-star spa available for public use, was of the “highest quality,” which would bring “high-value” visitors to the county, with no material reasons to refuse other than location.
Speaking again at the September meeting, she said objections “had been mobilised through a small minority of people through targeted objections.”
She said the development would also address damage caused to surrounding disused areas – once the home of a wildlife park – by antisocial behaviour.
Speaking on behalf of Stepaside & Pleasant Valley Residents’ Group, Trish Cormack has previously warned: “The beautiful character of the valley would be lost forever,” adding the holiday lodges would be “a sad and tacky backdrop to an important piece of Welsh heritage.”
At the September meeting, Councillor Mark Carter, who moved the application be approved on the grounds of economic benefit and environmental improvement, said the site “gleams”.
He added: “I feel they make a contribution to the village; if I wanted to buy one [chalet] I would definitely be considering one down there.”
Councillor Brian Hall, who seconded Cllr Carter, said: “I think this new application would improve this area, they have my total, total support; it’s one of the best ‘lodge’ complexes I’ve been to in 35 years.”
Referring to a previous official council visit many moons ago, Cllr Hall added: “[Former First Minister] Rhodri Morgan had a caravan there, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.”
He later described the development as “the way forward for the prosperity of Pembrokeshire,” adding: “It is a fantastic site, you can’t find a pinch of litter.”
Councillor Jamie Adams said he felt objectors’ concerns about the impact of the expansion had been “overstated.”
“For me, the opportunity that this planning application creates overrides the concerns that they have raised; I am very supportive of the application.”
Local councillor Alistair Cameron launched a plea for members to support refusal, citing the many objectors, and concerns of residents.
A further voice calling for the application to be refused was Tenby councillor Michael Williams, who said: “I appeal to members to listen to officers on this occasion; the clue is in the name ‘Pleasant Valley,’ this would be hugely detrimental to the residents of and area; it would be absolutely catastrophic.
“I appeal to you to listen to the local residents who have to live there; I think we’re undermining our authority if you refuse to support officers in this recommendation.”
As members went against a recommended refusal, by nine votes to five, a ‘minded to’ cooling-off period is invoked, meaning the application will return to a future meeting for ratification, and is likely to ultimately be decided by full council.