“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.

A closer look at the Vale LDP: The spur is still in there…

On closer examination, the rail spur from the Vale line into Cardiff Airport is still a part of the Vale of Glamorgan’s thinking, if not their immediate plans.

In our previous post. we reported that the rail spur had been taken out of the Vale Council’s immediate plans for development in the county, but now that we’ve had the chance to take a closer look at the Local Development Plan, we’ve noticed that they hold out the possibility of building the rail spur at some (unspecified) time in the future, to support the Enterprise Zone at Cardiff Airport.

spursnippet

Reference to the Cardiff Airport Rail Spur in the Vale of Glamorgan’s Local Development Plan (page 71)

The reference comes in a section that deals with the Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone on pages 70 – 71. the enterprise zone is an initiative to create employment opportunities in the aerospace and defence sectors, and is located at the Aerospace business park in St Athan and the land adjacent to Cardiff Airport and Port Road.

The LDP says that a “Masterplan” is being prepared by the Welsh Government, and will inform part of the future planning and development of the land, and will address a number of issues including the development of the land for employment, the provision of an energy centre and “Safeguarding of a route for a potential rail link to Cardiff Airport across the site…”.

In order to “Safeguard a route”, the Welsh Government will need to identify that route, and this prompts questions about where it will go, what habitats it might disturb and the impact that it may have on the Vale line. As we have shown before, a spur from the Vale line to the airport will disrupt the important commuter connection from Llantwit Major and Rhoose into Cardiff, just as the electrification of the line is announced.

So could Vale commuters see their Vale line increase to half hourly trains only to be quickly pegged back to the existing (and inadequate) hourly service? How will this “Masterplan” will be put together, including crucially, will the people of the Vale have a democratic opportunity to respond to the plan while it is still in a draft form?

Cardiff Airport’s performance woes and Carwyn Jones’ airport task force

In May this year you may have seen news of an investigation being conducted by the First Minister Carwyn Jones, with the help of a task force of various groups that have a stake in the airport.

One of the groups who were asked to make a representation to the task force is the Vale of Glamorgan Council. As we’ve noted before, because of new leadership the original Local Development Plan, including the rail spur suggestion, has been discarded. Council leader Neil Moore has talked about going ‘back to the drawing board’ on more than one occasion.

According to BBC News today, Cardiff Airport has suffered a drop in passenger numbers in a comparison of the first half of 2012 with the same period in 2011. Another group on the task force is the Airport itself who have given some pretty clear clues in today’s article about what they would like to see. A spokesperson gave a key reason for the unfortunate drop in passenger numbers:

The airport said the majority of the fall was due to the decision of bmibaby to pull out of Cardiff.

Then an echo of what Steve Hodgetts, the commercial director of the Airport, said in March this year:

The spokesperson added that route development remained a priority for the airport, which was working closely with the Welsh government through the newly established Airport Taskforce and Enterprise Zone.

In fact the Airport has never lobbied or asked or expressed a desire for a direct rail spur to answer its woes. It’s clear from the bmibaby example that retention of airlines is very important. It’s also clear that route development – that is, more and better air routes around the world including new partnerships with additional airlines – is what will help to bring more passengers to the airport.

As far as we’re aware the task force investigation is still ongoing and we’re looking forward to the findings when they are eventually published. Given the early signs given by the Council and the Airport – two influential members of the task force – we’d be willing to bet that the idea of a direct rail spur in the Vale of Glamorgan won’t be among the recommendations. Let’s hope so at least.

Thank you to everyone who signed the Stop The Spur petition

Thank you so much to everyone who signed the Stop The Spur online petition! A total of 481 people signed the petition to express their opposition to the rail spur proposal in the Vale of Glamorgan’s local development plan.

We went with farmer Gethin Jenkins to the council offices in Barry this afternoon to deliver the petition:

And here’s our receipt from the clerk.

Today’s 5PM consultation deadline has now closed and our online petition is now no longer accepting signatures.

We now leave this issue with the Vale planning department. If and when there is further news of the proposal we will update you via this website in the coming weeks and months. We are not 100% at this stage if we will need to campaign further in other ways. Let’s hope the planners recognise the validity of our arguments and the number of people (mostly local to the Vale but not exclusively so) who have put their names to them.

Optional highly detailed bit:

You might have spotted that the receipt refers to four separate letters submitted by our campaign. These are four identical feedback forms each with the petition text and signatures. The only difference between them are the policy numbers. The Vale of Glamorgan Council specifically requests that one objection per policy number is submitted and the rail spur covers four different policy numbers – SP7(1), SP2(3), MG13 and MG20(5). So that’s the format we used for the feedback from the Stop The Spur campaign.

 

Enjoy the sun!

(Maybe you could make a visit to Porthkerry Park to remind yourself what a precious environment we share in the Vale of Glamorgan.)
🙂

How the rail spur threatens the Vale line


The proposed rail spur to the airport will compete with the Vale line to Rhoose and Llantwit Major for line capacity and resources.

With an estimated capacity of 4 trains per hour after upgrade work is completed in Cardiff, the Welsh government aims to increase Vale lined services to two an hour. With 3 trains an hour proposed on the airport link, plus hourly freight services to Aberthaw power station, something has to give.

With the level of political and financial investment required to make the rail spur happen, the Vale line would almost certainly lose out to the new rail line. So as well as destroying the local environment, local livelihoods and failing to help Cardiff Airport in the slightest, the spur would damage a vital transport link that’s being used by 360,000 people a year.

Please sign the petition to lodge an objection to this plan. We have until Monday 2nd of April.

Public exhibition of the plans, including the rail spur plan

Here’s a useful bit of info concerning the Local Development Plan from Vale of Glamorgan Council’s website:

During the consultation period, the Council is holding a series of public exhibitions at the following locations where Council staff can help explain the LDP process and answer any questions you may have…

Saturday 17 March 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Dock Office, Barry
Tuesday 20 March 2 p.m – 7 p.m. Cowbridge Town Hall
Saturday 24 March 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Llantwit Major Town Hall

Members of the LDP team will also be available to discuss the Deposit LDP and associated documents at the Council’s Dock Office in Barry throughout the consultation period during normal working hours.

The Council’s Dock Office in Barry is at:

The Vale of Glamorgan Council
LDP Team
Dock Office
Barry
CF63 4RT

Although much of the planning info is available on the web, it’s a great opportunity to put your questions to council officers.

Stop The Spur campaign: 148 on Facebook and support is growing

A quick update from the Stop The Spur campaign…

The issue started with our concerns about a local development plan in Vale of Glamorgan with no media presence. We realised that we would need to at least plant a seed online in order to make people realise the folly of the rail spur plan. So we put some info online and have been really encouraged by the support that we’ve seen in a relatively short space of time. This week we have received more messages of support, people subscribing to our updates and some enquiries for further info.

At the time of writing we have had 148 people pledge their support on our Facebook page and growing.

We’re also trying to encourage anyone involved in the Vale of Glamorgan: make sure you have your say and send your feedback to the Vale council. That includes not only residents but regular visitors, people who work here and so on. We’ve put together a friendly guide to the response form.

Please do stay in touch via Facebook, Twitter or the email subscription in the sidebar.