AGRICULTURAL land which Swansea Council once fought to protect is a step closer to making way for up to 850 homes.

The council’s planning committee voted in favour of the Bellway Homes scheme at Parc Mawr, Penllergaer, but the final decision is to be made by the Welsh Government.

Around 700 objectors opposed the application on numerous grounds, but planning officers recommended it for approval after the site had been earmarked for housebuilding in Swansea’s latest development plan.

Planning agent Pete Sulley, on behalf Bellway Homes, said the development would also deliver a school, 13 play areas, two sports pitches, a multi-use games area, BMX track, allotments and many walking and cycling routes.

The £130 million project, he added, would create 900 direct jobs and comprise 20% affordable housing.

Also addressing the committee was Penllergaer councillor Wendy Fitzgerald, who said: “I’m beginning to think I’m here on a false mission – it seems like we are going to have paradise on Earth here in Penllergaer.”

She referred to a planning inquiry from more than a decade ago which resulted, she said, in residents being told that Parc Mawr was not going to be developed for housing.

“It is not surprising that trust and confidence in this council is completely shattered,” she said.

Cllr Fitzgerald said 44 acres of the Parc Mawr site was high-quality (Grade 3a) agricultural land and that Welsh planning policy placed “considerable weight” to the protection of such land.

She also said traffic from the new estate would adversely affect the already busy M4 junction nearby.

“Don’t try and tell us in Penllergaer that building 850 houses is not going to impact on junction 47 (of the M4),” she said.

Committee members asked council officers about the loss of agricultural land, the new spine road running through the estate, speed limits, drainage and when the new developer-funded primary school would get built.

They also wanted assurances that the affordable homes would be spread around Parc Mawr, not clustered in certain areas.

Cllr Mary Jones said she was worried about the loss of agricultural land, particular in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

“Things have changed quite radically,” she said.

Cllr Mike White pointed out that other large residential schemes in Swansea were once fields.

Officers said the planning inquiry cited by Cllr Fitzgerald had been superseded by the local development plan (LDP), which concluded that Swansea lacked sufficient brownfield land to accommodate the many thousands of houses expected to be needed in the coming years.

A planning inspector’s report about the LDP recognised the loss of agricultural land at Parc Mawr but said it was justified.

The remote committee meeting heard that many copses and hedgerows at the development site would be retained as part of a suite of “green infrastructure” – plus there would be public access to land where there isn’t now.

The north-to-south spine street would have a three-metre wide pavement for cyclists and walkers, with the BMX track on the far west of the site.

The scheme before the committee was an outline application for up to 850 homes, to be delivered in phases, and detailed planning consent for 184 of them – with these 184 to be accessed off Brynrhos Crescent.

A new link road from Parc Mawr to the main road to the north – the A4240 – would be built when the 185th house is occupied.

Other new accesses would be created onto the A483 to the east, and the A484 to the south, at later stages.

Improvements will be made to junction 47 of the M4 as a result of funding from a nearby housing project.

A highways officer said junction 47 “would operate no worse than it does at the moment and probably better” when all the houses laid out in the county-wide development plan – and accompanying roads, cycle routes and bus stops – were completed.

The primary school at Parc Mawr would be built when the 500th house is completed.

Planning officers accepted a committee request that a blanket 20mph speed limit was imposed at the new estate.

The development land in question is 196 acres in total. The houses, school, roads and other buildings would take up 88 acres.

One person wrote to the council in support the scheme, saying affordable housing in the area was very limited.

Seven members of the committee voted in favour of the application, with two abstentions and no objections.

Objectors had wanted the meeting deferred until they could attend in person once Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted.

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