We have spent the last 18 months + fighting housing developments in Penyffordd including representing the interests of Penyffordd Ward (Penyffordd, Penymynydd and Dobshill) in the Flintshire local plan consultation.
So why are we not objecting to the latest one in Dobshill?
Here are some of the things we have considered:
1. Affordable Homes
We need affordable homes in our community. There are families, couples and individuals who cannot afford to buy a house and cannot afford market rent. We want people who live in or originate in our community to have the opportunity to live here. This development includes disabled access bungalows, a four bedroom house and two one bedroom apartments - all affordable - these are all in very short supply. It is frustrating that the last two developments on the Groves and Heritage Park contained only 10% affordable homes rather than the 30% that should be there - this development will go some way to correcting that balance.
2. Brownfield Land
Welsh Government policy, Flintshire policy and our own Place Plan specify that development should take place on Brownfield (previously developed) sites first. This land was formerly a council depot and it now sits derelict with the land contaminated and in need of a cleanup.
3. Size of Development
The proposal is for 24 dwellings on 0.6 hectares of land. Our Place Plan preference is for no more than 23 homes per hectare (this site would hold 15 homes on that basis) - however, 8 of the dwellings are flats in a single building. Our Place Plan also proposes no more than 25 homes in a single development and this proposal complies with that.
4. Alternative Uses
The site is owned by Flintshire County Council and in the current financial climate they will want to realise some value from it. This proposal is for houses built for the Council. The land is not in good condition and therefore expensive for a private housing developer to deliver and so might become a commercial site or be sold for some other use. Arguably, it is preferable for neighbours to have housing rather than a commercial operation on their doorstep.
5. Types of Homes
The proposal is for 100% affordable homes in a mixture of council, affordable rent and potentially some shared-equity affordable homes - we are waiting to confirm the mix. The intention is for the allocation of housing (from the Flintshire affordable register) will favour those from the community first - including Dobshill, Penyffordd/Penymynydd and Drury.
The proposal for the site has:
2 No. x 1 Bed apartment
4 No. x 2 Bed apartment
2 No. x 2 Bed Bungalow
8 No. x 2 Bed House
5 No. x 3 Bed House
1 No. x 4 Bed House.
2 No. Adapted Bungalows
6. Impact on the Flintshire Local Development Plan
Flintshire have set their strategy for the period to 2030 and it includes building 7,645 homes to satisfy employment growth of 8,000 - 10,000 jobs. There is therefore pressure to build, as we have seen in Penyffordd. Although Dobshill is described as an 'Undefined Village' and therefore not in the top settlement categories, its location next to both the A55 and the Borderline railway make it vulnerable to having to accept some housing allocation.
There are three candidate sites in Dobshill, the largest of which (behind the garage) could deliver 90+ houses. The development site is one of the 3 and if it goes ahead will significantly strengthen the case against any further development in this plan period. We also understand that Tom Jones old farm is up for auction and his land is for sale - that land mostly connects Penymynydd and Dobshill and is currently green barrier in the UDP.
We will vigorously resist any development proposals on the green field sites in Dobshill.
7. Visual Appearance
The plan designers have sought to cause the least harm to the environment or neighbouring properties in their layout and designs. We have been assured that the existing substantial hedgerows and established trees will not be touched, other than to allow for wider access at the entrance and to enable access to the children's play area directly from the development.
The design of the feature properties (directly opposite the entrance) is intended to mirror the style of the cottage terraces on the other side of Chester Road.
The one frustration is that the largest building on the site, which contains the apartments, is at the front of the development - though moving it to the rear was explored. That building is slightly higher than the others (less than 1 metre) because of the sound insulation between floors.
At times Chester Road can be very busy, usually with traffic using the lanes as a cut through. Allowing these additional properties and therefore additional cars will add to that problem, but also provide further reason why we need to get traffic calming to reduce the cut through traffic. We are aware of significant volumes of traffic from Hope bypassing Penyffordd via Lower Mountain Lane, Old Hope Road and then through Chester Road to Dobshill.
9. Impact on Services
One of the major objections to other proposals in Penyffordd has been the lack of infrastructure to support growth. How does that apply here?
Gas - we understand there is no main gas supply on Chester Road - we will raise this issue with FCC and find out whether there is a plan to install it
Waste - there are concerns about surface water run off and existing drainage capacity - we will raise this issue with FCC to clarify their plans
Doctors - The GP services in Hope, Buckley and Hawarden all have significant wait times but we have been told that it is the responsibility of the local Health Authority to address demand
School places - the new primary school in Penyffordd is expected to be ready for autumn 2019 and will have capacity. Elfed High School is the closest High School to Dobshill and has plenty of capacity.
Wates, the builder, have been appointed by Flintshire County Council to deliver all the homes on the SHARP scheme. They already have other successful schemes completed in Pontybodkin and Flint which look good. Crucially, we are talking with them and the Flintshire County Council representatives about the scheme (it has not gone into planning yet).
Following our numerous public meetings and questionnaire feedback, we have been representing the wishes of those residents of Dobshill who contributed - the need to develop this site has been known for a long time and we included it in our Community Place Plan.
We have proactively pressed for 12 months to know the intentions for the site and following a meeting where early drafts of the plan were available, we have considered what we be most worrying for residents and what the community needs and we requested some changes, notably:
Adding some affordable to buy properties to the mix (to aid better social cohesion). That is yet to be confirmed but we will continue to press. The reason for this is to make sure that there are residents with a vested interest which will help to promote pride in the properties and the environment. We consider it wrong to build a development of all executive homes and we consider it equally wrong to build a development of 100% council and rented properties.
Increasing car parking for visitors to avoid any parking on the road. That has been done.
Moving the bin store positions to make them more convenient to future residents and less visible to current residents. That has been done.
Opening a pedestrian access to the children's play area (to the west) to enable direct access for new residents but also through access for people using the footpath coming from Prices Hill Wood - again it will aid social cohesion by providing a reason for pedestrians to use the new development as a thoroughfare. That has been done.
We did request the apartment building be moved to the rear of the site but that was not possible due to the underground water drainage proposal.
We are in dialogue with the development team and if there are concerns that can be addressed, they will discuss them and review the possibilities.
Because Wates have a long term relationship with FCC, they are also happy to contribute to community projects and work with local communities - we are continuing the conversations with them.
What happens next?
The Wates and FCC team are happy to attend a public meeting to share the detail of the plans and answer questions if there is demand.
There is a pre-consultation period now until the 26th March 2018. That will give you a chance to provide feedback on the scheme, including objections and suggestions about what to improve. You can email feedback to Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the consultation period is over, the builders and FCC will review the feedback before submitting a formal planning application. There is then a further consultation period where official objections can be submitted. The scheme will then be decided before the planning committee.
Let us know what you think and we will share all of the feedback with Wates and Flintshire County Council: