“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?

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?

The future of Cardiff Airport depends on air routes

For those who would like to see Cardiff Airport thrive BBC News Wales has a disheartening item today :

[…] Swiss carrier Helvetic is pulling out of Cardiff Airport, two years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.

Helvetic started flying to Zurich from Cardiff in 2011, but had already dropped winter services after low demand and will not fly this summer. […]

BBC Radio Wales also covered the news of Helvetic’s withdrawal and there’s a audio clip from this morning.

The accompanying news that operator Vueling is to increase services to Malaga and Alicante is a small consolation. We also note the recent reports of a possible new route to Hawarden in north east Wales once work on the new terminal there is completed.

As we’ve maintained from the start and as Cardiff Airport themselves have stated, air routes are the MOST important factor in the success or failure of the Airport.

That is, tinkering with the railway in the Vale of Glamorgan through the adding of a spur is not the answer – and would be a source of other big problems as we’ve outlined in previous posts here. In particular, can the daily commuters who live in the Vale be reassured that the rail services – already squeezed – will not be threatened by the addition of a needless extra burden on the line? We’ll have to wait for the new draft LDP from the Council before knowing for sure.

Welsh Government to buy Cardiff Airport

Who saw this coming?

Cardiff Airport will be bought by the Welsh Government, it has been announced.

First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed on Twitter today that a deal had reached with owners TBI to bring the struggling airport into public ownership.

TBI is a company owned by Spanish conglomerate Abertis (90%) and AENA (10%), the Spanish airports operator.

The nationalisation of the airport comes after a torrid few years which have seen declining passenger numbers and the loss of a number of key routes.

Mr Jones has spoken frequently of his dissatisfaction at the airport’s performance, which he labelled “not good enough” in March.

And in October, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood called for a public stake in the airport.

The Welsh Government will now enter an exclusive period of due diligence that it said would take into account “financial, legal and vale for money considerations”.
[…]

Full story on WalesOnline today