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South Sebastopol: Renewal of Outline Planning Permission - submission

Torfaen Friends of the Earth (TFoE) made a submission to Torfaen County Borough Council (TCBC) objecting to an application for outline planning permission for a development of 1,200 houses on greenfield land between Cwmbrân and Sebastopol. The area for development is known as South Sebastopol.

The proposed South Sebastopol development was given outline planning permission, subject to successful completion of Section 106 Agreements, after a long fight some five years ago. The Section 106 Agreements have not been made and the developers applied in 2010 to renew the outline planning permission.

Summary

Torfaen Friends of the Earth's objections to renewing the outline planning permission for South Sebastopol focus on the way in which the application is being used to circumvent Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) planning rules on sustainable housing, the lack of provision in the plans for creating a viable and sustainabile community, and the destruction of an archaeologically and environmentally interesting landscape.

The housing allocation for Torfaen in the current and proposed Local Development Plans (LDP) includes an over provision of new housing to allow for flexibility of site selection. The South Sebastopol site accounts for approximately all the over provision and any decision to renew the outline planning permission for the site should not be considered until after the consultation period for the LDP has ended and the new LDP is determined. By proceeding with the appliction for renewing the outline plannning permission for South Sebastopol rather than asking the developers to submit a new application, TCBC have foregone some £150,000 in planning fees and are allowing the developers to sidestep WAG guidelines on sustainable housing introduced since the outline planning permission was originally granted.

‘TCBC … are allowing the developers to sidestep WAG guidelines on sustainable housing’

Removing the provision of a school from the plans the proposed development will result in a housing estate that looks outwards for its services rather than a sustainable village community, which was the original intention. A further concern is the lack of sufficient employment opportunities to support a community of this size, and the LDP contains no plans to stimulate local economic activity near South Sebastopol.

Current highways infrastructure in the South Sebastopol area is insufficient to support construction traffic and given that highways budgets are being cut by the current government it is unlikley that adequeate provision will be made for the expected levels of traffic following completion of the development. There are brownfield sites within the borough suitable for residential development of a similar magnitude to South Sebastopol that already have the requisite highways infrastructre. Consequently, it is difficult to understand why South Sebastopol should be developed in preference to these other sites.

‘the plans to develop South Sebastopol propose to vandalise an archaeologically and environmentally interesting greenfield site to build 1,200 houses for which there appears to be no need’

TFoE commissioned an archaeological evaluation of the South Sebastopol area by Professor David Austin of Lampeter University. Professor Austin's report identifies a clear archaeological narrative in the landscape and is highly critical of the methodology and conclusions of the archaeological report submitted by the developers as part of the original planning application. Professor Austin identifies the need for further survey work to establish the true historical vaule of the South Sebastopol landscape and to identify sites that should be conserved. To date, TCBC planners have been happy to accept the developers' report while ignoring Professor Austin's work.

In summary, the plans to develop South Sebastopol propose to vandalise an archaeologically and environmentally interesting greenfield site to build 1,200 houses for which there appears to be no need and for which there will be inadequate highways infrastructure. All this is being done without any consideration of the need for local economic development to support the proposed community, which will lead to the creation of a dormitory estate where the residents are forced to travel elsewhere to work.

The full text of the submission is available.

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