Meeting Organised by Councillors Gail Giles and Jason Hughes; notes taken by Councillor Jason Hughes
Traffic congestion – Whilst University stated that traffic has decreased since the closure of the campus this has not been the experience for residents because several new housing developments have since been built, adding hundreds of houses and cars to our infrastructure.
Worries continue that Caerleon’s infrastructure is still that of a village but the population is increasing to a large town placing health facilities, roads and schools under continuously increasing pressure.
There was a sense that development in Caerleon is not being controlled.
Caerleon’s old bridge is not designed for the scale and size of the traffic entering Caerleon.
Other major routes under pressure from increasing traffic include a country lane in a poor state of repair and poor visibility, Ponthir Road, which has up until now seen the bulk of new development, and Usk road.
It is believed increasingly unrestricted heavy goods vehicles are using Caerleon and either using the lane or bridge which are considered to be unsuitable. Residents complained that because many homes are on the roadside their homes, they literally shake when vehicles go by.
Few residents, if any, believed a significant build will not add to the traffic problems in Caerleon.
It was stated that there are now more than 400 additional cars using the St Cadoc’s site and concerns were raised that Aneurin Health Board was not taking the issue of air pollution seriously enough.
In addition difficulties that emergency vehicles would have entering Caerleon in relation to town emergencies and access to the new hospital.
The new hospital at Llanfrechfa would also add to traffic issues in Caerleon. It can take 20-30 mins to just travel through the town in rush hour!
Residents questioned the timing of the air pollution tests in the environmental survey and stated that the times were deliberately meant to be at quieter times. When schools closed or outside off the commuting times to make the results look less damaging.
Caerleon was already failing air pollution tests. Some residents gave detailed accounts gained from FIR’s. Any development would worsen the situation and a large scale one would be a deliberate worsening of people’s health.
The air pollution issues are near homes, schools, a health centre and nursery services which affects our most vulnerable residents.
Caerleon is an ancient historic town and tourist centre. Historical monuments also within metres of worst air pollution zones.
Requests were repeated that a new Comprehensive School should be built on the Campus site.
Pressure on local schools, particularly the Comprehensive school and Charles Williams Church in Wales Primary school, was raised.
In response, the Interim Chief Education Officer responded that there was scope within the system to take additional places and all Caerleon schools currently had vacancies in certain year groups.
It was stated that many Caerleon children have come from outside the ward.
There was detailed discussion about 106 planning agreements and how it could apply to Caerleon.
The removal of a sports facility acknowledged as one of the best in the region in an area of close to 10k people leaving nothing in its place was strongly criticised at a time public health was such a concern. It was questioned whether its removal was in keeping with Future Generations legislation.
It was felt that the rugby field was only being saved because it had restrictions and it should be provided with floodlights, 4G pitch and changing room facilities.
Quality of Development
Whilst, development of the site is strongly opposed, there were very strong feelings that should there be housing, it must be of an excellent specification which will enhance the whole community. The present application was considered to be a missed opportunity to avoid another typical high density low quality housing development in favour of something special that benefitted, and tied into, an historic community.
Need for a Caerleon Plan
There was a call for integrated planning that takes into account Caerleon’s needs as a community, rather than individual planning applications which have a damaging, combined effect over time.
Caerleon has suffered from hundreds of new homes with no infrastructure improvements and a coordinated approach is needed urgently to protect this important Welsh historical area .
A show of hands unanimously showed residents were against the planning development as it stands.
Several people acknowledged officers in attendance had given a good account of themselves in giving thorough answers to the questions asked on the night.
Officers in attendance provided the following updates:
Ø Environmental Health is aware of the poor air quality in parts of Caerleon and are concerned about the levels of pollutants. For this reason they do have concerns about potential impact of the Caerleon University development and we will be looking at the application very closely and providing appropriate advice to Development Control. Currently we are awaiting advice from the Council’s Highways team on the submissions made by the developer which were based on the traffic surveys.
Ø Clarification was given in regard to how many Councillors were on the Planning Committee and whether the application should be referred to Full Council for decision.
Ø Recent leisure contributions had been spent in the Lodge area.
Ø A number of questions were answered regarding Section 106 planning contributions that will be spent in the local area
Ø Confirmation that the Railway Halt did not form part of the proposal.
Ø The loss of the Sports Centre was given as one of the reasons that triggered the requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment and confirmation that the landowner could technically apply to demolish the listed buildings.
Ø Currently there are primary and secondary school places in Caerleon. In January 2017 there were 51 surplus places in Lodge Hill Primary, 23 in Charles Williams Primary and 27 places in Caerleon Comp. Places in specific years groups are limited. Fundamentally children and young people from Caerleon can access a local school place. When families move into Caerleon and request an ‘in-year admission’ this is more challenging because spare places can be accessed by pupils out of the catchment area. This is no different to any other part of the city. It is beneficial for a school to have low surplus places because they are able to maximise their funding income.
Ø Funding for school buildings and maintenance – Newport City Council has bid for £35m under ‘Welsh Government 21st Century Band B Funding’, which would require matched funded locally. A decision will be delivered by Welsh Government in November. Caerleon Comprehensive is included to benefit from funding via ‘Band B.’
Ø The new Lodge Hill Primary build is due to begin shortly
Ø The University’s proposed planning application for development on the University site, including, 311 dwellings, would result in the need for an estimated additional 93 primary and 62 secondary school places. Newport’s Education Department expects the developer to fund the costs of the work required to provide these additional places, via Section 106 money.