…By Alan Peterson for TDPel Media.
The Friends of West Cross Common and the Gower Society have taken action against Swansea Council, urging them to overturn the planning consent granted for 56 affordable homes on common land.
The campaigners argue that the site is home to a diverse range of species and hold concerns about setting a precedent for building on common land.
Under the process of judicial review, they have submitted a letter outlining their grounds for challenge.
Approval Amidst Environmental Concerns
In March, the council’s planning committee voted six to four in favor of the 56-home development on Clyne Common.
Spanning two hectares, the plot is located north of Chestnut Avenue and west of Mulberry Avenue in West Cross.
Notably, it is also a designated site of significant nature conservation.
While approximately 60 objections were received, council planning officers recommended approval, emphasizing that the development would align with the land’s character, enhance access to the common area, and address the pressing need for affordable housing in west Swansea.
Alleged Breach of Procedures and Ecological Loss
The Friends of West Cross Common and the Gower Society claim that the council failed to adhere to its own procedures when granting planning permission.
They are apprehensive about the potential ramifications of constructing on common land.
Mike Crafer, representing the Friends of group, acknowledged the need for social housing but voiced concerns that other considerations were overlooked.
He emphasized the significance of the common as an integral part of the wider Gower commons, spanning from Rhossili to Swansea Bay, and described it as an irreplaceable treasure.
A Biodiverse Habitat Under Threat
Carol Crafer, involved in coordinating wildlife surveys of the common, described the site as a captivating mosaic of wet and dry heathland, scrub, and wet woodland, providing a habitat for a diverse range of plants and animals.
She highlighted the presence of protected and endangered species, with the air filled by a symphony of bird songs.
Exchange of Land and Ecological Management
The applicants, Ashgrove and Coastal Housing, will need to exchange common land, a process overseen by the Welsh Government, before any construction can begin.
They are also required to submit a landscape and ecological management plan to the council for approval.
However, Gordon Howe from the Gower Society expressed concerns about the suitability of the proposed exchange land and the potential for future encroachment by other developers.
He warned of the loss of peat, a valuable carbon sink, and increased risk of surface water flooding for nearby properties.
Howe criticized the perceived haste in pushing the application through without sufficient consideration.
Council Response and Considerations
The council acknowledged the potential legal challenge and stated that they would respond in due course.
During the planning meeting in March, the applicants’ agent highlighted the absence of objections from statutory and specialist consultees and emphasized the critical need for affordable housing.
West Cross councillor Rebecca Fogarty supported the provision of social housing but emphasized the ecological value of the site, cautioning the committee about the complexity of the decision at hand.
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