PLANS have been approved for a new railway station in east Cardiff with a business park including 15-storey office towers.
Cardiff Parkway railway station will be built on farmland in St Mellons, between Cypress Drive and Heol Las.
It’s unclear when construction will start but the station is due to open in 2024. Cardiff Parkway forms a key part of the South Wales Metro plans, and the planned Cardiff Crossrail.
East Cardiff is currently poorly served for railway services with no train stations, while the west side of the city has several.
Marshfield, a village east of St Mellons, had a station until it closed in 1959.
A neighbouring business park also now has planning permission with 90,000sqm of commercial floorspace, which could include buildings up to 15 storeys tall.
Cardiff council granted planning permission for the development at a meeting on Wednesday, April 4.
Councillors, however, raised concerns about the height of the office buildings and the impact on local ecology and wildlife, as the site is on the edge of the Gwent Levels.
Most buildings in that area are two storeys tall, and the landscape is very flat.
Councillor Iona Gordon said:
“I’m 100 per cent behind the railway station. But it’s at a huge cost.
“We need and want a station, but [this is] at the cost of massive development of tall buildings on the flat Gwent Levels. I’m really concerned about the impact this is going to have.”
The development is being privately built by Cardiff Parkway Developments Ltd, with backing from the Welsh Government. Most new train stations tend to be built by the public sector.
Developers have previously said the new railway station would mean journeys to Cardiff Central in seven minutes, and the business park would have the potential to provide 6,000 jobs.
Nigel Roberts, chairman of Cardiff Parkway Developments, said:
“We’re delighted to have gained a positive outcome at the planning committee today for this transformational project.
“Our proposals are for a sustainable, well-connected business district with public transport at its heart.
“This project will bring investment to an area of Cardiff that needs it, create new employment opportunities, and better connect people in this region of south-east Wales.
“We’re aiming to deliver convenient and quick services, with a high quality customer experience to encourage sustainable transport to become the obvious choice.”
Many residents in the area backed the new train station, which would massively reduce journey times into the city centre, but echoed concerns about the height of some of the buildings and the impact on local wildlife.
Throughout the area runs a network of reens, narrow watercourses which are important ecologically.
The plans include conditions to maintain and protect these reens, as well as to replace trees cut down with newly-planted ones, and to create wildlife corridors for protected species.
A new park would be created, as well as several footpaths and cycling routes around the area. The site is currently farmland but often suffers from fly-tipping and poor access.
One issue raised by councillors was the joint application for the business park and the railway station, with suggestions made that separate applications should be made for each part of the development. Questions over demand for new office spaces were also raised.
Councillor Lyn Hudson said:
“I don’t understand why we have to take this development en bloc, it should have come in two parts.
“This is a ransom note that we have to consider: if you don’t have the business park, you don’t get the station. We have many offices in the city centre that aren’t occupied. So will the city centre remain empty while people go up to St Mellons?”
The height of the office buildings was still undecided, according to council bosses, who said 15 storeys was the maximum but not necessarily what will actually be built.
One added that the business park was needed to help fund the cost of privately building the railway station.
Simon Gilbert, head of planning, said:
“It is one of the very few privately-funded railway stations in existence or being proposed. As a consequence of that, there does need to be an element of enabling development to facilitate the expense of delivering the railway station.”
Local councillors representing the area backed the development as a major upgrade in public transport and bringing jobs and investment to the eastern part of Cardiff.
Councillor Michael Michael, representing Trowbridge, said:
“This city has been badly let down in the past by having transport issues that have never been addressed. This is a chance to address some of those historic needs.
“This would allow residents in St Mellons and Trowbridge to get to town within seven minutes, which will take hundreds of cars off the road.”
Developers estimate the station will accommodate 800,000 passengers a year, with eight trains an hour to Cardiff and Newport.
Four intercity-length platforms will serve local routes and direct mainline journeys to London, north Wales, Manchester, Bristol and more.