COUNCIL chiefs will seek a joint venture partner to restore and redevelop a former farm at Singleton Park and four other sites in Swansea.
Cabinet members lined up to endorse the proposals at a meeting – and stressed again that none of the parkland surrounding Home Farm would be lost.
Deputy council leader Clive Lloyd said: “Singleton Park is safe in the council’s hands.”
The Home Farm concept involves restoring some of the buildings at the old farm – which is currently used as a council depot with limited public access – to create a housing development.
New houses would also be built, taking the total to 42, some of which would be classed as affordable housing.
The other development sites under consideration are at Mynydd Garnllwyd Road, Morriston; Midland Place, Llansamlet; land at Mynydd Newydd Road and Milford Way, Penplas; and the former Gorseinon Business Park, West Street, Gorseinon.
Some cabinet members said media coverage of the Home Farm proposal in Sketty had prompted concerns among the public which did not reflect what was being considered.
Addressing cabinet, Sketty Councillor Peter Jones said he spoken to a number of concerned residents, and added that a campaign group had been formed.
“There is a great deal of of concern – possibly political damage – that might follow from a development of this kind,” he said.
The Labour ward member said that “clearly there is misunderstanding” over the proposal, but suggested the scheme would need a widening of the access road between Home Farm and Sketty Lane.
Cllr Jones recommended that cabinet considered alternative ways of redeveloping Home Farm, and said it was “important to carry the public with us”.
Cllr Lloyd said he was aware of the wider interest in the proposal, but pointed out that the council had to look at ways of raising money to address funding shortfalls.
He said the joint venture model agreed at the meeting was different to simply selling off a piece of land.
“What we are seeking to do is retain control within the council,” he said.
The same was true, he said, of the other four sites.
“This is a different direction,” he said.
Referring to Home Farm, Cllr Lloyd said : “I understand the vehicle access concerns. The traffic ingress and egress would be the same – or less – than what is currently taking place.”
Any felling of trees, he said, would be “the absolute last resort” or not happen at all – and he said “at least 20%” of the 42 houses would be affordable.
The former Home Farm farmhouse is grade two-listed, and Cllr Lloyd said he was concerned about any further deterioration of it and other historic buildings there.
Councillor Andrea Lewis said more affordable housing was needed in Swansea, while Councillor Jennifer Raynor said one of the Home Farm buildings that used to serve as the horse pound had been regularly damaged.
Councillor Mark Thomas said it was more accurate to refer to Home Farm as being in Sketty, not Singleton Park.
“It’s like saying Singleton Hospital is part of Singleton Park, or Swansea University is part of Singleton Park,” he said.
“I think once people realise that, some of the concerns being expressed will ease.”
Council leader Rob Stewart said a “myth-busting” page is being added to the council’s website, and warned the administration would be “quite vigorous in challenging” any councillors “seeking to make political capital” from the Home Farm proposal.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Cllr Stewart said: “Not a blade of grass would be touched in the neighbouring parkland.
“We would keep tight control of any development and would turn this unattractive, largely unseen location into something of which Swansea people could be proud.”
Councillor Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said ongoing feasibility work was placing on emphasis on conservation, heritage, ecology and the site’s special status.
He said: “This isn’t a case of us selling off an asset – this is us looking for potential commercial partners and for an arrangement that may generate both capital and revenue receipts.
“We want to maximise commercial returns for the long-term good of the community rather than simply sell a site off to a developer for a land value.”