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Pobl Group developer saves nearly £300k if Gowerton planning agreement is changed

A DEVELOPER will save nearly £300,000 if Swansea councillors decide to change a planning agreement on March 2.

Social housing provider Pobl Group has planning permission to build 99 houses and flats at the former Cefn Gorwydd colliery, Gowerton.

Key to that consent was an agreement to make a £369,076 education contribution and a £35,000 highways contribution to the council.

Although Pobl Group signed the agreement, it now said the cost of developing the land was “abnormal” and that the education contribution was “unviable”.

It has argued in its application to amend the agreement that it allowed for high development costs from the outset, but that the additional expense had only come to light as the woodland and scrub which covered the colliery was cleared.

Therefore, it now wants to remove the bulk of the education contribution – £272,659 – which was earmarked for Gowerton Primary School.

Following discussions with education officers, Pobl Group would pay the remaining education contribution for Welsh-medium schools in the area.

The application has prompted 342 objections from local residents and organisations.

They said Pobl Group should have been fully aware of the site it was taking on and felt it was now trying to duck its responsibilities.

One objector claimed their child’s class at Gowerton primary was so large that there weren’t enough desks and seats, and that the 99 extra properties would only put more pressure on the school.

Another claimed it was “indirect discrimination” against the children of Gowerton who didn’t attend Welsh-medium schools.

But council officers said in a planning report that Gower Primary School was now forecast to have more unfilled places that previously – contrasting with the demand for Welsh-medium places – which meant Pobl’s request was acceptable.

The report also said it was acceptable for the £35,000 highways contribution to be reduced to £20,000.

This means that Pobl Group will save £287,659 at one fell swoop if the council’s planning committee voted in favour of a planning officer recommendation of approval at Tuesday’s meeting.

Pobl Group also wants to change the housing provided at the site. The original consent included 34 affordable units, 70% of which would be low rent and 30% of which would be “intermediate” tenure – that is, homes defined for rent or sale above the low level but still below market levels.

Pobl Group now plans to deliver 67 affordable units but wants the wording of the agreement changed to “immediate” tenure in order to qualify for a Welsh Government social housing grant.

Pobl Group has argued that the net benefit was many more affordable properties, and council officers have recommended that the proposal is approved.

Gowerton councillor Susan Jones said she was “appalled” by the application.

Her objection letter said:

“The removal of the agreement should not be considered or allowed on this planning application to increase the financial liability of this development at the expense of the children and the village of Gowerton.”

But planning officers have recommended that amendments to the planning agreement were acceptable, adding that evidence provided by Pobl showed  “significant abnormal costs” had arisen at the former colliery.

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