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Planning application 2006/1031

[Residential development on land at Brandy Cove Road, Bishopston]

"New building needs to be strictly controlled in number, location and design. Need, not profit, must be the criterion. Buildings must meet a social or economic need of the community and complement the landscape. Creeping sub-urbanisation is another very real danger. It has been called 'death by a thousand cuts'."

- Malcolm Ridge, Chairman, Gower Society, March 2006 (source: South Wales Evening Post Celebrating Gower - 50 Years as an AONB)

(Ironically, the letter giving notification of this planning application came in an envelope whose postmark read "Gower - 50 years of outstanding natural beauty")

Some key points to consider if objecting to this application

(Note *NEW* additions)

1. Gower is a unique asset that exists for the benefit of all. But its small size means that even just a few inappropriate developments would tip the balance and spoil forever its appeal as an area of outstanding natural beauty. A gradual 'death by a thousand cuts' would see an irreversible squandering of one of Swansea's finest assets.

2. Swansea benefits both economically and in terms of prestige from the "capital asset" of Gower's natural beauty. As traditional manufacturing and related economies continue to decline, tourism is emerging as an ever more important source of revenue for the Swansea region. Gower is the main tourist attraction for the Swansea area and has deservedly gained a high national and international profile for the uniqueness and beauty of its natural rural and coastal landscapes.

3. *NEW* Part of the proposed development site is located within the Gower AONB. The rest is directly adjacent to the AONB boundary and is land designated by planners as "Development to be resisted" (as it is within the AONB). Any development of this kind within or directly adjacent to an AONB will inevitably diminish the natural beauty of the AONB area.

4. The Development Plan for Swansea begins its section on General Landscape Conservation (Policy CL1) with the following statement:

"The countryside will be protected for its own sake and for future generations."

Under the above Development Plan, the fundamental test for compliance with sustainable planning policy is whether any proposed development "adds to the net environmental capital" - in other words does it enhance the area in any way?

The Swansea Area Development Plan incorporates Welsh Assembly planning policy guidance (PPG12) on the need to "conserve the countryside for its own sake" and to "secure the conservation of natural beauty and amenity of land".

Planning Policy GZ7, covering the Bishopston Valley, Pwlldu and Caswell areas begins with the following statement:

"The area will be protected from further development."

Any development such as that proposed in Application 2006/1031 would clearly be at odds with each of these fundamental principles which are designed to conserve the natural environment of Gower.

5. Bishopston is a traditional Gower village with its own unique identity and characteristics. This proposed development would extend the natural boundary of the village of Bishopston. If Bishopston is allowed to sprawl it will lose its identity and merge with neighbouring villages, possibly eventually becoming an indistinguishable suburb of Swansea City identifiable only by name.

6. *NEW* Amenity land - pleasant open space that need not have any specific use - is very important to every place where people live. It provides real benefits to residents, visitors and wildlife. Planners recognise this. The government also recognises this - it's an important part of what they call "sustainable communities". The proposed development would remove an important green wedge between Pwlldu and Brandy Cove and result in the loss of valuable amenity to the village of Bishopston.

7. Any development of this kind creates a precedent. Future applications to develop other pieces of green space become easier to push through - "if you let them build then why can't you let me?" So allowing any such development to go ahead will contribute both directly and indirectly to the loss of Bishopston's identity as a Gower village.

8. The idea of 'infill development' - only building on plots of land that seem to be a part of a village anyway - is open to abuse. Developing one plot of land often creates new nooks and gaps out of previously open spaces - and these in turn become 'infill'.

9. Vehicle access to Bishopston village direct from trunk roads is achieved by one of only two routes:

Both routes include significant stretches of narrow and/or single track road through which traffic congestion is already a feature, with attendant safety, noise and pollution concerns for both local residents and visitors. Any further development in Bishopston Village will inevitably add to the level of traffic congestion and increase the level of traffic hazard.

10. *NEW* There is currently some uncertainty as to the exact details of access to the proposed development, but it appears that it will inevitably affect existing residents of Brandy Cove Road and its off-shoots and is likely to affect the residents of Pwlldu Lane. All vehicle users of Pyle Corner will be affected by an increase in the level of traffic pulling out onto this dangerous corner.

11. Planning officers regularly turn down small, perhaps seemingly innocuous developments on Gower - a dormer here, an extension there and so on. Sometimes the decision may seem unfair to some, but the aim of all such decisions is to stop Gower losing its unique character - an aim that few Gower residents, not to mention visitors, would oppose. But to allow such wholesale new development on the Gower Peninsula would seem to make a mockery of every minor planning application that ever got turned down.

12. Every green space is a haven for wildlife - birds, small mammals, butterflies, insects and so on. Gower as a whole comprises several unique habitats and provides a home for a very diverse range of species. Every green space that is developed means the destruction of a natural habitat and places further pressure on Gower's wildlife.

13. *NEW* Agricultural land is important to the community and to the country (and countryside) as a whole. There are 5 grades of agricultural land - the government seeks to protect the top three Grades (1, 2, 3a) from development as they are the 'best and most versatile' land. Our preliminary research indicates that the proposed site is likely to be either Grade 1 or Grade 2 (to be confirmed if possible)

14. New building of this kind on Gower is simply not sustainable. At its most basic, there are two options:

If we take the first option, we preserve Gower for future generations to enjoy as we have. If we take the second option, we lose Gower forever. Anything in between is just a step along the road of Gower's destruction.