“Airport City” and the missing “Masterplan”: Questions abound for Rhoose residents…

As the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan (LDP) consultation (deadline 20th December) continues, serious implications for residents of Rhoose remain hidden within a “Masterplan” that no one has seen or is able to comment on.

The “Masterplan”, which the Vale council LDP refers to as a Welsh Government document, although the First Minister insists is a Cardiff Airport Board document, contains a reference to an “Airport City”. On page 70, paragraph 6.62 of the LDP, the document says:

airport city reference in LDP

This reference to the Airport City Masterplan can be found in the Local Development Plan on pages 70 – 71

The Masterplan, which we are told will contain details of proposals for this Airport City, including the following elements;

  • “Safeguarding the route” of the railway Spur from the Vale line to the airport.
  • An ‘energy centre’, described as a combined heat and power plant.
  • Employment land to the south of Port Road, which currently comprises the best agricultural land on Model Farm, which Gethin and Rhys Jenkins‘ family has been farming for four generations.
  • An extension to Porthkerry Country Park, by land being transferred from Legal and General, the Landowners (who will see an huge increase in the overall value of their land from its reclassification from Agricultural to Employment land) to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

The inclusion of this Masterplan within the LDP leaves many questions for us residents of the local area, which you might want to ask local councillors and planners:

  1. Why are the Council, who received our petition opposing the rail spur during the last LDP, still insisting on having this proposal in the new LDP?
  2. How can the council justify tucking way in a reference on page 71 “safeguarding the route of the rail spur”, and then only in a reference to a “Masterplan” that no one has seen nor can comment on?
  3. Why does the Council feel that it needs to allocate more land to the employment zone for this “Airport City” south of Port Road, when there is plenty of employment land already allocated north of the road which hasn’t yet been developed, despite being available for the last 15 years?
  4. How can the council justify rendering Model Farm economically unviable, thereby ending the farm that four generations of tenant farmers have been looking after and from which they have produced high quality food for Wales? Especially while employment land north of Port Road remains undeveloped and unused?
  5. How much disruption will be caused to local residents using Port Road to commute to Barry and Cardiff, in building this power plant and the development (if it ever happens) of the employment land south of the road, and what will happen to the iconic view across the fields to the viaduct, the Bristol channel and beyond from the road?
  6. While the extension to Porthkerry Country park seems positive for the Vale, has the Council looked fully into the financial implications of managing all this extra land? At present, the land is tended by the farmers at Model farm, at no cost to the taxpayer.And perhaps most urgently…
  7. Who is responsible for the creation of this “Masterplan”? When will it be published? Will it be open to public consultation?

Confusion about who is writing the Masterplan

The Vale of Glamorgan Council Local Development plan states clearly that the “Masterplan” is being prepared by the Welsh Government on page 70:

WelshGovMasterplan

But Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, has said equally clearly in the Senedd that it is NOT a Welsh Government document, but the Cardiff Airport Board are preparing it:

What questions do you want answered about these plans? If you’re a resident of Rhoose, how do you feel about these plans for your local area being developed without consultation with the public? Do you feel that the “Spur” idea is still a threat to our rail services on the Vale line?

Questioning the holes in the Vale of Glamorgan LDP

Our local Assembly member Eluned Parrott has recently questioned the so-called ‘master plan’ in the Vale of Glamorgan’s LDP.

ASSEMBLY Member for South Wales Central, Eluned Parrott, has challenged the First Minister to publish his Master Plan for Cardiff Airport, which the Vale of Glamorgan’s Local Development Plan states is being produced by the Welsh Labour Government.

The Local Development Plan (LDP) sets out how land within the Vale of Glamorgan will be used between 2011 and 2026, and allocates significant areas of land in the Rhoose area to developments that form part of a Cardiff Airport Master Plan.

When asked if and when the Airport Master Plan would be published, the First Minister replied that he would liaise with Cardiff Airport’s Board but claimed that it was their plan and not the Welsh Government’s.

Eluned Parrott said: “In the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan, several pieces of land have been allocated for the development of an Airport Master Plan, but no-one seems to know what that plan is, nor who is driving it. The LDP specifically states that the Welsh Government are developing these plans, and yet the First Minister categorically denied it today.

“This is a shambles. If the Vale Council are able to set aside specific parcels of land to deliver the Master Plan, they must at least know in outline form what developments are planned.

“Local residents are now extremely concerned that they can’t effectively respond to the Draft LDP consultation if the information it is based on isn’t in the public domain.

“We need to see the Airport Master Plan before the LDP consultation closes. Local residents deserve the facts, so they’re not left responding in the dark.”

If you’d like to see the relevant sections, the LDP is available as a PDF file from the Vale Council’s website. From pages 70 and 71 of the LDP:

6.62 This site is not allocated to meet local market demand for general industrial or office uses, but rather to accommodate business and employment uses catering specifically for the needs of the aerospace industry and high tech manufacturing. There are plans to create an ‘airport city’, taking the form of a business destination for local and international businesses including quality office accommodation, specialist education, training facilities and leisure developments. […]

6.63. In order to deliver a high quality, comprehensive and sustainable development on this strategically important site, a Masterplan must be produced to include the following elements:

[…]

c. The provision of an energy centre, such as a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant, to ensure the development has high sustainable credentials.

Now that the LDP is under consultation, residents of the Vale of Glamorgan may want to have more detail on these proposals – preferably before the deadline for responses which is on 20th December 2013.

What exactly is the airport city? What kind of energy plant are we talking about here?

Who exactly is responsible for the master plan? Is it appropriate that this consultation is taking place while we remain in the dark about the master plan, in effect while the LDP has this huge hole in it?

This part is especially unsettling for Vale residents:

d. Safeguarding of a route for a potential rail link to Cardiff Airport across the site to ensure the development does not compromise future proposals to enhance sustainable access to the airport.

As we’ve shown before, a spur would not be ‘sustainable’ – it would have a detrimental impact on Vale line services. The mass of local opinion against the spur and FOR the Vale line, as evidenced by the 481 signatories to the Stop the Spur – Protect the Vale Line petition, plus the extraordinary costs of such little-needed infrastructure, have been reason enough for the planners to drop the spur entirely from all plans and concentrate on improvements to road networks, and to the bus service to the Airport.

The Airport Express bus service is so much more cost effective and immediate than building a costly railway line – even though initial teething problems including levels of use have needed to be addressed.

Now all it takes is for the airport to get cracking and partner with airlines in order to produce the customer numbers needed to make it viable. The bus service has a relatively modest subsidy cost from the Welsh Government, at ‘only’ £470k compared to a conservative estimate of £15m for a rail spur, not to mention the damage to the commuter services to/from Rhoose and Llantwit Major. At least the Vale line remains intact. If and when we get the half-hourly service it will finally start to be a good commuter service for our communities.