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STOP PRESS...11/01/08...APPEAL DISMISSED...FIELD TO STAY GREEN!

Planning Application 2007/0172 - Developers Appeal (Appeal Ref: A07/2054819)

Following two refusals by Swansea City Planning Department - both of which reflected current planning policy and guidance for the local area - the developers have decided to exercise their right to appeal the decision to the Welsh Assembly Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development.

Every planning applicant who gets turned down has this right, so the move doesn't come as any great surprise.

All correspondence previously received by Swansea Planning Department will be forwarded to the Welsh Assembly Planning Inspector, as will a copy of the original report produced. Anyone may, however, send further observations direct to the Welsh Assembly Planning Inspectorate. If you want to make any further observations you need to:

  1. Produce 3 copies of your correspondence
  2. Mark them with the Appeal Reference A07/2054819 (Application Reference 2007/0172)
  3. Send the 3 copies to: Planning Inspectorate, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ
  4. Do this before 18th November 2007

You can download a copy of a guide to participating in planning appeals from the Planning Inspectorate website (PDF).

Some observations

Almost everything that could be said in opposition to this application has already been said - in some cases many times over. However, here are a few further observations:

1. Bearing in mind that the appeal is directed at the Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development (my italics), it's important to look at the bigger picture as regards food and bio-fuels production. The last couple of decades have seen an era of plentiful fossil fuel, no concerns about carbon emissions/global warming and abundant imports of cheap food. This is changing fast! Global food production is coming under increasing pressure from population expansion, climate change, and competing demand from the fast growing bio-fuels industry. Transporting food around the planet is becoming less and less realistic. Carbon emissions notwithstanding, oil will run out within the next few decades and the front-runner to replace it is bio-fuels. Food and bio-fuel production need good farmland, but once you build on a field it's lost pretty much forever. The field where this proposed development would be sited is among the best possible farmland available in Wales - a truly scarce resource and one that we'll really need in the near future. Would that be a sustainable outcome?

2. Building on Gower's green spaces is not itself sustainable. Gower's land area is limited on three sides by water and on the fourth side by the City of Swansea. There's just not enough room to keep building! So it's a simple choice - recognise this unsustainability and draw a line now, or continue developing until there's no more fields and green spaces - losing in the process one of Wales's finest assets, the valuable tourist destination that is the Gower Peninsula AONB.

3. There is no housing crisis is Swansea! This may on the face of it be controversial stuff, but as I write this there are many properties in and around Swansea advertised for sale at 75,000 or less. This is over 130,000 less than the national average! Plenty more are advertised for sale at less than 100,000. Most of these are located within 10 miles of the proposed development site. As with any region, some areas are deemed more desirable to live in than others - so prices in these desirable areas go up. But any developer who claims that they want to solve a 'housing crisis' by building on Gower is frankly talking nonsense! If they're really concerned about the plight of the first time buyer, they should buy land where it's much cheaper, so that they can build more houses for more people at a lower cost. In doing so, they'll help to regenerate those parts of Swansea that would truly benefit from the development. But unfortunately that would be much less profitable, wouldn't it. There's nothing wrong with making profits of course, but let's be honest - profit is the overriding goal of any commercial property developer no matter what they may say otherwise!

More information

Welsh Assembly appeal decisions are difficult to predict. In theory, they should just uphold the original decision here - the application was turned down in accordance with sound and well established planning policy for the local area, due process appears to have been followed at all times, and there is almost no support for the proposed development. However, past experience suggests that they can be a bit maverick, so fingers crossed...

You can in due course obtain a copy of the appeal decision by asking for this from the Planning Inspectorate in writing.

You can visit the Planning Inspectorate website for more information about the appeals system.