PEOPLE living near a former maternity hospital in Carmarthenshire have welcomed a decision not to replace it with houses, and now want the whole site removed from the county’s new local development plan.
They said the land around the old Amman Valley Maternity Hospital in Glanamman contained valuable wildlife and habitats and felt it should not make way for housing.
The privately-owned site has been allocated for residential use in the new local development plan (LDP) – a county-wide planning blueprint for housing and other land uses up to 2033.
However, the LDP is not set in stone yet and will only be adopted after an examination by Wales’ Planning Inspectorate.
Earlier this year, council planning officers turned down an application to knock down the old hospital and build 28 houses, with access via Tirycoed Road.
Officers said insufficient regard had been paid to “priority species and habitats” set out in law, and concluded that the scheme would not enhance the landscape and would adversely affect its ecological networks.
Traffic, access and air quality concerns were also raised by officers.
Resident Gareth Williams, who objected to the application, said: “The big issue here is the ecology and the loss of habitat for protected species.
“The first reason to turn it down was conservation.”
Mr Williams argued he couldn’t see how any housing application could overcome the conservation factor.
“This whole site should not be considered on that basis,” he added.
Another resident John Studley, said the site contained species-rich rhos pasture, hedges, and a “riparian corridor” separating woodland from a stream.
Dr Studley said he believed the land should be designated as a site of special scientific interest status.
He and others said they would like the former hospital to be replaced by a conservation centre-type building, and felt their opposition to the site’s inclusion in the LDP hadn’t been given sufficient consideration.
“This is still hanging over us like the sword of Damacles,” said Dr Studley.
The site owners are entitled to appeal the council’s refusal of the 28 homes and, according to a planning agent on their behalf, are reviewing the decision before deciding whether or not to appeal.
Asked about the LDP, which is now at the “deposit” stage, a Carmarthenshire Council spokeswoman said the authority had received objections to the land being allocated for housing.
These objections, she said, will be forwarded to the independent planning inspector when he or she examines the LDP.
The spokeswoman added: “Whilst there are no further consultations proposed on the allocation of the site ahead of submission to the Welsh Government, the matter will form part of the examination where objectors will be able to put their case to the inspector whose findings will be binding.”
The council has previously turned down two applications for housing on the land, in 2014 and in 2016.
Meanwhile, objectors are also worried about the impact of traffic from any new homes on Tirycoed Road, which has cars parked on one side – restricting two-way traffic flow – and narrow sections of pavement.
Resident Lee Bentley said: “The street couldn’t cope with the traffic and disruption it (a housing scheme) would cause.”
Tori Sparano, who lives on Tirycoed Road and is mayor of Cwmamman Town Council – which serves Glanamman and Garnant – said: “There is strong community feeling about this.”
Asked if she accepted there was a need for new housing, she replied: “I think that’s understandable. We are not anti-development, but it’s got to be suitable, and unfortunately I don’t see this as suitable for housing.”
Another resident, ecologist Rob Parry, echoed the mayor’s views.
Mr Parry added that the Amman Valley was crucially important for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly.
“It’s one of its last true strongholds,” he said.