Planning issues in Caerleon will obviously be a hot topic between now and the council elections in May, and our opponents are already deliberately spreading misinformation. The Conservatives in particular have been trying to scare people with hints of “behind the scenes” deals over the potential development of the St Cadoc’s Hospital site for housing.
The Chair of Newport Planning, Councillor Paul Huntley, said this week, “I have been checking all the salient facts with Planning Officers at Newport City Council, and the fact is that applications for residential and other developments on the St Cadoc’s Hospital site are now well and truly in the long grass, where they were firmly kicked in 2015.
“ Newport City Council Planning Department do not have hidden agendas and are completely open and transparent”.
The complicated saga actually started when the Conservatives shared power with the Liberal Democrats in Newport between 2008 and 2012. The site was originally submitted to the old Unitary Development Plan, which was formally replaced by the current Local Development Plan last year.
St Cadoc’s was included in the UDP as a “candidate” site. The UDP, like the current LDP, existed to give the local authority some idea about potential applications in the years to come. Unfortunately some people, encouraged by the Caerleon Tories it seems, tend to confuse inclusion in a development plan with an actual planning application. The Aneurin Bevan Health Board submitted an interest in developing 8 hectares for residential use (250 dwellings); 5 hectares open space for leisure/sports activities; 4 hectares for a new treatment and assessment centre; 1 hectare for a railway station.
An open space requirement, to go hand in hand with any residential development, was included at the insistence of Councillor Gail Giles.
Legal agreements were drawn up in 2011, under Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, which were designed to ensure that the Health Board would stick to their promise of setting up an open space – IF they went ahead with residential development.As it turned out the Health Board didn’t go ahead with planning applications for housing, leisure space etc ‒ with the exception of the 4 hectares for their own usage. Councillor Gail Giles had initially raised concerns about the siting of the treatment and assessment centre on an open space. These concerns were documented at the time in the official application papers.
Outline permission was granted in 2011, under the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat administration, but it was subject to the Health Board drawing up a Section 106 agreement. That didn’t happen until 2013, by which time Labour controlled the council.
As time moved on it became clear that the Health Board were not going to go ahead with the treatment and assessment centre on the 4 hectares of open ground anyway, and permission has now lapsed.
And as for the earlier scheme for residential development? In the words of the authors of the Local Development Plan, 2015,
“Given the uncertainty over the timing of the release of the land and deliverability within the Plan period, a housing allocation has not been made in the Local Development Plan.”
So housing, treatment centre, and designated open space are all now water under the bridge. And there no” behind the scenes” deals to reinstate them.
Footnote: Caerleon’s Labour councillors have consistently opposed unwanted development in Caerleon. In March 2010 Gail Giles organised a public meeting at the Town Hall, attended by 300 people. She pledged to support residents in their opposition to further development. In a question and answer session Councillor Charles Ferris (Conservative) refused to say whether he was opposing further development. Councillor Angela Jones, Caerleon’s other Tory councillor at the time, did not attend the meeting.