PLANS for new flats in Canton have sparked concerns the building will be too tall and cause the loss of several car parking spaces.
Canton Community Hall on Leckwith Road will be knocked down and replaced with a new community hall, and 41 apartments on top for elderly people.
The new building will be five storeys tall, and will mean the loss of the Leckwith Road pay-and-display car park, reducing the total number of parking spaces by 65.
Cardiff council’s planning committee voted to grant permission for the scheme, put forward by the council’s housing department, on Wednesday, December 15.
Councillors heard concerns that the building will be “completely out of kilter” with the local area, where most buildings are two storeys tall, as well as that the loss of car parking could cause local businesses on Cowbridge Road to close.
Several other car parks exist nearby, and council planning policy encourages fewer parking spaces in locations where residents can easily walk to local shops and services or take public transport. The policy aims to reduce the use of private cars, due to their impact on the climate crisis, air pollution and traffic congestion.
Julia Richards organised a petition against the development and told the committee about her concerns. She said: “All of the local people who signed the petition are concerned about the scale of the development. Five storeys is completely out of kilter for the area.”
She added Leckwith Road suffers from air pollution, which would impact on future residents, and the loss of the car parking would impact on the shops on Cowbridge Road. She said: “To make it more difficult to shop in the area will surely lead to further shop closures.”
Councillor Iona Gordon, who sits on the planning committee but was speaking as a local ward member, called for the scheme to be redesigned so more car parking spaces could be included.
She said: “This is a really ambitious and quality project and clearly our council has ambitious targets for increasing social and affordable housing to meet our city’s huge demands. I support the housing department’s aims to build flats for older people in this location, and also support the provision of the community hall for activities and functions.
“My objections to this application are due to the huge reduction of parking spaces currently available to 18. People will try once to park, and if they don’t get a space, they will move their custom and their business away from this part of Cowbridge Road, the Canton high street.”
The Leckwith Road car park was originally green public open space, before being concreted over in 2012 to form the car park. Two other car parks are within five minutes walking distance, at Gray Street and Severn Road, with a third at Wellington Street six minutes away.
Cllr Peter Wong backed the scheme and criticised the arguments for keeping parking spaces. He said: “I like the design. There’s a net increase in trees. It provides better community facilities, and much needed low-carbon housing for older people, in a sustainable location.
“I object to the argument that local businesses on Cowbridge Road are car parking dependent. There’s no evidence to support it and the actual research shows the opposite. It’s not an argument we ought to be making in a climate emergency, when we need to promote sustainable transport.”
Eight councillors voted in favour of the scheme, with one councillor voting against it.
Commenting after the meeting, cabinet member for housing Cllr Lynda Thorne welcomed the decision to grant planning permission.
She said: “More high quality, sustainable and affordable new homes are on their way to the city via our own build programme. With continuing high demand for new council homes that are also low-carbon, that can only be good news.
“This new development will mean 41 new flexible and accessible homes in an area where there is a chronic lack of affordable housing for older people. The scheme has been thoughtfully designed to help residents to maintain independence, foster a sense of community and belonging and to encourage social interaction.
“With an increasing aging population — the number of citizens 65 to 84 is projected to rise by 44 per cent over the next 20 years — it’s important that we are prepared and are building new homes that can not only meet the needs of older residents when they move in but also as their needs change as they grow older.”