Last week Welsh planners wantonly wrote off the economies of the Ely and Rhondda valleys when Cardiff Council approved an application to develop 10,000 houses near Creigiau in north west Cardiff.
The planners have offered only restricted access to junction 33 of the M4 and so most of the new residents will drive to Junction 34 in Rhondda Cynon Taf to reach most of their destinations. They will cause total gridlock to a junction already working well beyond capacity. The result is that economic and housing development in the Ely and Rhondda valleys will be undermined by some stubborn determination to develop these disconnected fields of outer Cardiff.
It is so obviously bad planning, why did it happen?
Back in 2010 Cardiff Council’s draft Local Development Plan had been rejected by Welsh Government because it had not met the targets set for housing development. I attended meetings to pick up the pieces. A Welsh Government planning official laid down the law: no LDP would be approved without 40,000 extra homes within Cardiff’s boundaries. I questioned this, arguing that the projections for household formation were based on data from before the financial crash and, in any case, we should be looking for well-connected housing growth outside of Cardiff’s borders and not unconnected growth from within.
The civil servant, surprisingly brash and brazen, asserted that as a qualified planner he knew what was right: Wales needed a bigger Cardiff with bigger boundaries and a bigger population. Small countries, he said, needed big cities. I gave examples of successful city regions which had small, high quality cities with big, well connected, diverse and productive hinterlands. It was to no avail. The die was cast.
A new Cardiff LDP is now in place offering 40,000 new homes concentrated within the city boundaries but with no connectivity. Cardiff’s new residents will surge into transport corridors, outwith the city boundaries, originally designed to open up valley communities. Well connected sites for housing development outside of Cardiff will be shunned as developers cherry pick the green, green fields of Creigiau and St Fagans.
The emperor has no clothes but in the professional cabals of Welsh planning, there is barely a whisper.