Friday, August 23, 2013

Call in declined by Welsh Government

As anticipated in our last post, we received a letter from the Welsh Government today which states:

"The Minister for Housing and Regeneration has considered the issues associated with the application in the light of the Welsh Government's policy on call-in (detailed in Planning Policy Wales (Edition 5, November 2012)) and, on the information available, has concluded that it does not raise issues which warrant taking the matter away from the local planning authority. Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council has been informed that the Minister does not consider that the applications should be called-in for determination by the Welsh Ministers. It is now for the Council to determine the application as it sees fit."

Other than express disappointment that the sound arguments we put forward were not accepted there is little to add to our previous post.

Monday, July 29, 2013

RCT approves plan - probably the last post:(

Dear Colleagues

Sorry it has taken time to report on the RCT Development Control Committee that took place on 18 July. At this meeting it was agreed to support the outline planning permission for the new town development and the specific proposal for Sainsburys.

You may recall that it seemed this decision was actually taken on 28 February this year. However, at that time, the Committee agreed that it should only go ahead if the developers found £4m to prepare the highways for phase 1 and 2. Shortly after the meeting the developers said they could not afford this sum of money and a long period of negotiations started.

At the meeting of 18 July it was reported that the outcome of the negotiations had resulted in the developers being prepared to pay around £2m for highway developments at the 4119 and 437 roundabout, relating to the phase 1 development. This new figure was approved by the Development Control Committee.

The Welsh Government needs to be informed under an old piece of law requiring all new retail development to be reported to them, but it is expected that this will be a matter of form as this law has subsequently been repealed. The full RCT council meeting I believe still has to approve the decision but there is little prospect of that not happening as all councillors attend the Development Control Committee.

This is where the report now becomes a personal one and does not represent the view of any of my colleagues who have put in hours of effort on the Pontyclun working group.

1.    I remain unhappy about the decision as I’ve argued before, quoting reports that can be seen on this website, the indications are that big high street shopping is on a long term decline due to the internet and the general fall in consumers real spending, coupled with rising retail overhead costs. Jobs are very important and the brownfield site should have been used to extend the very successful industrial units such as those on Coedcae Lane. The Post Office could also have been involved in the development of a 24/7 drop and pick up point for internet orders, possibly working with Leekes. This is the sort of development that cuts with the current trends and would have helped our existing village centres.

2.    I know that many people are keen to have a local Sainsburys and I hope you enjoy your shopping. It should have at the very least been built just on the brownfield land.

3.    £5m is required to complete the infrastructure work for phase 1 and another £6m for phase 2. It is not clear to me how and who is going to fund the difference between the £2m promised and the £5m required in phase 1.

4.    The company that RCT are dealing with was called Valad Developments (Llantrisant) Ltd but change their name for some inexplicable reason to Talbot Green Developments Ltd in January of this year. They state in their accounts that the land is worth about £12m and they have a £20m loan against it from the Bank of Scotland. It is very difficult to work out who ultimately owns the company as Valad was taken over the multi-national private equity company Blackstone in 2011. Blackstone could still own half or all or they could have sold it totally to the Scarborough property organisation. Either way, the land is leveraged and although the owners call themselves developers, they are actually really interested in the money, so I expect they will soon as possible realise the added value for getting the planning permission through, sell on the land and cover the debt.  Who RCT will then be dealing with is anyone’s guess: all I hope is that we don’t see another film studio scenario.

5.    So where do we go from here? The ‘call in’ is still with the Welsh Government minister and it is up to their discretion – there is little sign of the matter being taken seriously. We’ve asked the AM to inquire for us.

6.    Finally, if you are ready to take a stand on the ground to preserve the green space and so am I. Other than that, we shall have to monitor and watch this space to see whose analysis is closest to the unfolding reality.

Thanks for your interest and support over the last couple of years. Sorry we were not more successful but who knows, money and the lack of investment return may be more powerful than planning permission!

Len Arthur 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

RCT meeting 18.07.2013 last chance to make a difference

Dear Colleagues

I’ve just heard this morning that both the outline planning permission for the whole development and that for Sainsbury’s is going before RCT Development Control Commission Thursday 18.07.2013 at 17.00. You can see the details here:

The delay since the meeting in February approved the outline planning permission, has been over the circa £4m that the committee required the developers to spend on highway works in preparation for phase 2 of the proposals. There has been a lot of negotiating and the developers have now come back with a final offer of just over £2m. The committee is being asked to approve this and then approve the planning permission for Sainsbury’s.

I’ve just checked with RCT planning and members of the public can speak at the meeting and it appears that despite the short time in announcing this meeting, procedures have been followed. I have given notice of my intention to speak against the extensive nature of the development and you can do so as well by contacting Jim Bailey the planning officer responsible for the development at RCT.

This is an important meeting as it is the last chance to influence this proposal.

I’ve have chased up the request for the minister to ‘call in’ the proposals – we should have heard about this by now as well.

I’ll spread the news via Facebook and Twitter and will place this email on our website: .

Keep me in touch with what you decide to do.

All the best

Len Arthur


Friday, March 15, 2013

Updated speculations about the future - watch this space

A year ago the Pontyclun New Town Development working group posted a piece evaluating how this new evidence on the future impact of internet shopping might impact on the proposed development. Since that time we have extensively used this analysis in our responses to RCT and in support of our ‘call in’ request to the Welsh Government.
If you follow the financial press you will see that Morrisons are linking up with Ocado in a desperate attempt to overcome their lack of internet provision. On the other hand Tesco have purchased Giraffe restaurants in a similar desperate move to attract customers to their large stores.
Now, how might these fast moving circumstances be affecting Sainsbury? Perhaps we will find out soon? Similarly the private equity companies that ultimately own Valad the local developer are really only interested in realising the additional value achieved through planning permission by selling on as soon as possible. We were informed as much during the consultations as other more specialised companies are the ones who do the actual development. If they are interested in a quick buck any wobble on Sainsbury’s part will be fatal especially as they will be expected to pay up front £4m for the phase 2 infrastructure when permission is finally announced: no quick bucks and no trebles all round.
We were right to pick up on the internet shopping changes a year ago. Perhaps we are also right to speculate about these fast changing circumstances. Watch this space. RCT might like to look at our blog and start to think about the ideas we have proposed that will create real long term jobs for the area.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pontyclun Cllrs Paul and Margaret Griffiths speech to RCT planning meeting

Margaret Griffiths

I have sat on the fence for over a year wanting to believe that the predicted benefits of this retail park could be realised and that it would benefit the people of Rhondda Cynon and Taff.
But now I too have got to speak against this development.
Planning applications of this sort are like looking into a crystal ball.
As I travel around the UK and see chaos caused by misjudged developments, I remind myself that in every case there was an  expert report saying that everything would be all right on the night.
This proposal for a new town was conceived 10 or more years ago and life has moved on. There is no extra demand in our economy. But if demand shifts this retail park will kill 
Talbot Green,
Phase 1
If people are going to transfer their shopping from existing retail centres they must travel and this plan does not address the serious highway infrastructure problems that we have now and will become worse.
I accept that the new supermarket is not a big issue for the roads although I think it will kill all the small supermarkets in Talbot Green and Pontyclun.
Shoppers will move from the existing Tesco and the road network will not be adversely affected.
We have an LDP objective that we encourage walking and cycling instead of car use.  But there is no provision for walking from the Talbot Green retail park, to the new retail park. This will be a very strange new town in which a shopper wishing to visit Marks and Spencer and Boots and Sainsbury will need to travel half a mile by car.
So we will double the amount of traffic on the road as shoppers  drive between one retail park and another. The effect is chaos .
Phase 2
In Phase Two we will not just be shifting shoppers around the Talbot Green area. The applicant states that 40% of shoppers would previously have shopped in Cardiff and 10% in Pontypridd. These shoppers will be new to the roads of Talbot Green and will add substantially to the current congestion.

The applicant states that 30% of the shoppers will travel from the south and through the village of Pontyclun. The density of traffic on Brynsadler Hill is now so bad that the Post Office has refused to deliver post to the residents on the east side because of the danger to their staff, from traffic. I believe there is no other street in south Wales which is suffering in the same way.
The developer is offering £150,000 to mitigate the effects of the extra traffic through Pontyclun. I know I should be grateful; but I have not seen one suggestion of how this money could actually be used to reduce the density of traffic, allow the post to be delivered, allow the sick to get to hospital on time. Nor is this enough
Looking outside of Pontyclun itself, have you travelled at any time between 2.30 and 6.30 on the A4119 travelling northwards from the M4 to get onto the road to the Rhondda or the road to Pontypridd.
You sit in your car and crawl from the time you leave the motorway till you get past the roundabout where the A473 and the A4119 cross.  
The original transport assessment provided by the developer,  notes that our own strategic transport infrastructure needs study identifies that we need a grade separated junction as a long term solution in order to mitigate the effects of additional traffic a flyover at the cost of approximately £19 million pounds.
There is a total of £4 million on the table with £2.5 million of this for this junction.
It is a requirement of our LDP paragraph 4.75 that we  “ensure that the provision of highways improvements necessary to deliver allocated sites and to ensure that the growth proposed by the LDP has no adverse impact on the highway network” 
This is an important provision because gridlock on the A4119 and A473, will be bad for our local economy, in Talbot Green and the Rhondda. Firms will move out of Coed Cae Lane and Llantrisant Business Parks simply because they cannot get their goods to the motorway. The Vale of Glamorgan are working with the new owners of the Bosch site at Miskin to develop a distribution centre on the motorway. So our ambition to attract new business further up the Rhondda along the A4119 will be undermined by this retail park
In my view it is not a price worth paying and it is contrary to the commitment in our LDP that development should not have an adverse effect on the highways network.
I would however, welcome a new application for a Sainsbury store resited to face onto Cowbridge Road.
Because I believe that there is no evidenced need for other retail shops I believe that Sainsbury’s should be located on the western side of the site, the brown field site and facing sympathetically onto Cowbridge Road.
1.    We would not be using a green field site.
2.    We would enable the rest of the brown field site to be developed for retail if the need arises far into the future, for offices, industry or for housing.
To conclude I cannot recommend that you support this application  and I don’t believe that an appeal will be successful.

Paul Griffiths

I speak in part as a representative of the village of Pontyclun. If there is any Nimby sentiment in Pontyclun I have not found it and I am not speaking for it.
Pontyclun has doubled in size in 1991. Pontyclun stands alongside one of South Wales most successful and rapidly growing business parks at Coed Cae Lane – which Geraint Hopkins always reminds me is in his ward. The people have Pontyclun have always supported this rapid growth.
The application is to develop two former factory sites – Purolite and Staedler. I have met no-one who does not want these sites developed for new economic activity. About a third of the development is on the green field of the Pant Marsh.
As I have developed a view on this application I have had in mind two questions:
1.     Is this application consistent with the Local Development Plan?
2.     What does this application do for jobs and the RCT economy?
Paragraph 4.68 of the LDP states that
“Proposals for edge of town /out of town retail developments will be assessed in accordance with guidance contained in Planning Policy Wales”
That guidance states “In deciding whether to identify sites for retail and leisure developments, local planning authorities should in the first instance consider whether there is a need for additional provision for these uses”.
The Planning Inspector who reviewed the LDP drew particular attention to this requirement.
I think there is a need for a new food based supermarket on this site. Everyone knows that Tesco at Talbot Green is over trading and that there is sufficient local demand for a second supermarket.
My problem is with the application for a new Department store and 40 other multiple stores. Let there be no doubt: this is a massive out-of-town retail park designed to draw in car based customers from across the region.
Look at the illustration in Appendix E and ask yourself if this is a town centre in any sense that anyone would recognise. Look at page 35 of the report: the Design Council is requiring you to assess whether this application is a town centre or an out-of town retail park. Look at page 97 and there is only one answer – it is a retail park, requiring car access and occupying private space which will exclude citizens who merely want a town centre experience.
The LDP requires that we ensure that such a development is in response to additional need – this means that it is responding to extra pounds being spent in shops.
I have spent the last year reading report after report on retailing in the UK. You will not be surprised to hear that each year as the recession continues we spend less in shops.
There is however something more long term happening. Most of the retail appraisals supporting this application were done in 2007 when the volume of internet sales was not even recorded. In the last year 15% of all retail sales were on the internet. By 2016 it is estimated that a quarter of all retail sales will be on the internet. This is the reason that so many firms are leaving the Retail Parks- HMV, Jessops, Comet, JJB, Clinton Cards, Game Group, Aquascutum, Blacks, Habitat – the list goes on and on. Peacocks are losing one third of their stores. Even the most successful firms like John Lewis are reducing their staff in stores and re-focussing on internet sales.
I predict that out-of town retail parks will become the derelict canals of the 21st century.. Just as the railway replaced the canal, the internet is replacing out-of-town shopping. Over the next few decades retail parks will fade into redundant lumps of derelict concrete. I believe that we are being asked to give a planning consent to an out-dated canal.
Does it matter? You might think that all the risk is with the developer and not with the local authority. But there is a risk. If we allow the expansion of this retail site in the context of a declining market, and it succeeds, it can only do so by transferring trade from existing retail centres to this one – taking trade from Talbot Green, from Tonypandy, from Pontypridd, from Tonyrefail, from Llanharan and every other town centre in the County Borough. This is the important point that is being made by the RCT Chambers of Trade and Commerce.
I must say that the officers’ report before you is far too relaxed about the effect on other centres in RCT. The report  predicts that trade in Talbot Green will fall by 10% and trade in Pontypridd by 6% and then says that this is not significant. I have to ask what world are we living in? Retail margins are tiny – a further fall of 6 or 10% in trade will kill of a large proportion of the current retailers in these towns. Read the companies’ annual reports and you will not come to the same conclusion as this officer report.
The applicant claims that the development will create 1900 jobs. The applicant is clever enough to know that this cannot be true. There may be 1900 jobs on this site but as there is no increase in spending in shops every one of these jobs must come from other shops. The net increase in jobs must be zero.
You may think that taking trade and jobs from Cardiff is a good thing. But let’s just think that through. As our LDP says, our future economic success requires that we attract and develop high quality manufacturing and knowledge based industries. We will only do that if we sit along side a successful city centre in Cardiff. If we turn SE Wales into an American doughnut – a region without a city centre, we will all go down the pan. Over 20,000 people commute from RCT into Cardiff each day. If a Debenhams worker commuting from Abercynon or Pontypridd is asked to commute to Pontyclun instead of Cardiff, will that be progress?
In fact, it is not the case that Cardiff retailing is sucking retail capacity out of RCT. Just over 20% of the RCT economy is currently devoted to retailing. That figure is no higher in Cardiff.
I am convinced that there is a successful future for retailing in RCT, despite the inevitable switch to the internet. But this requires that we focus on our existing town centres and not on out-of-date retail parks. We support our existing town centres to focus on the sort of face-to-face services that the internet cannot provide. Our High Streets will need to change and innovate; but they can have a future. In contrast out-of town retail parks have no future.
A new supermarket needs to be developed but currently it is in the wrong place. It is on the Greenfield at the back of the site with every chance that in twenty years time it will still be surrounded by derelict factory sites.
I would welcome a revised application which brings the supermarket forward on to the old Purolite site, alongside the existing Leekes site. The vacant space at the back of the site should then be made available in a flexible manner as the need develops – it may be for extra retail, it might be for distribution, it might be for other economic activity.
I have become convinced that you should turn down this application in its current form. The application is contrary to our LDP because it does not meet any additional retail need and cannot therefore create any new jobs. It would not succeed on appeal.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Welsh Government asked to 'call in' New Town plan

 Following the decision by RCT to support the outline planning application for the proposed New Town we have decided that our arguments have not been fully taken on board and have asked the Minister to 'call in' the application so that the wider view can be taken account of.
Here is our letter of request to the Minister that was sent today.

Rhondda Cynon Taf: Application No. 11/1330/13 - Development of new town centre comprising: a 10,801sq m gross foodstore (Class A1); 8 pump petrol filling station; 35,522 sq m gross retail floor space (ClassA1); 600sq m gross cafe space (Class A1); 1,000sq m financial/professional service space (Class A2); 2,390sq m gross food and drink space (Class A3); 1,400sq m gross office space (Class B1); 750sq m gross Class D1 space; 8 screen cinema; 80 bed hotel; 64 dwellings (Class C2/C3); multi storey and surface level car parking; associated access infrastructure, re-profiling of land, landscaping and flood alleviation works (Further information comprising - Environmental Statement addendum, Design and Access Statement addendum and revised plans received August 2012) (Transport Assessment Addendum Report received January 2013).

John Griffiths AM Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development

7 March 2013

Dear Minister

We are writing to you to formally request that you use your discretionary powers to ‘call in’ the above outline planning proposal.

We represent the Pontyclun New Town Centre working group that was established over two years ago to make representations on this application. We meet regularly as a group, open to whoever wishes to come along; have undertaken a questionnaire based survey of all Pontyclun residents; held three public meetings; keep those 170 people particularly interested informed through email; and have a website that includes all our submissions and minutes of meetings:

Although Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Planning and Control Committee considered and approve this application on 28 February 2013 there is still some time before they issue their decision letter and we hope that the Minister will still be able to intervene.

Our grounds for asking the Minister to call in the application relate to the following criteria outlined in your Planning Policy Wales Edition 5 November 2012:

-      Could have wide effects beyond the immediate locality

-      May give rise to substantial controversy beyond the immediate locality

We are sorry for the late request but evidence relating to these criteria has only become available to us as a result of accessing the Report of the Service Director of Planning which was circulated for the meeting on 28 February 2013. This can be accessed in full at:

Within this document and on these following pages evidence became available for the first time of the impact of these proposals beyond RCT:

P11 & P14 – From John Lewis: the adverse impact on John Lewis as an anchor to the development of Cardiff City Centre.

P15 – From the St David’s Partnership: the adverse impact on the new St David’s Centre in Cardiff

P15 – From House of Fraser: detailing impacts in Cardiff, Pontypridd and Bridgend

P23 – Vale of Glamorgan: details adverse impacts to the south of the development, as far as Barry

P52 – RCT’s own estimate of the minus % impact on other areas

A number of these submissions make the point that RCT is not effectively building in the changing nature of the town centre retail market as a result of rising retailers’ costs, little growth in real demand and the extensive impact of internet shopping, all expected to result in a 30 – 40% reduction in stores within the next four years. This context enhances the impact of the adverse factors already identified. We have made this point in our own submissions, which are referred to in the RCT report but were not responded to.

This development is within three miles of Junction 34 of the M4. Already at certain times of the day, drivers wishing to exit at this junction need to prepare to leave immediately after Junction 33, when travelling west. There appears to be considerable concern, reflected in the report to the RCT meeting of 28 February that traffic surveys, particularly on the A4119 that will connect the New Town to Junction 34, do not adequately take account of the expected increased traffic flows. We believe that there is a real danger of the flow of traffic on the M4 being seriously impeded, thus adversely affecting the proper operation of this main east / west Welsh route, which is the direct responsibility of the Welsh Government.

Please come back to us if you have any further questions and we would very much appreciate an acknowledgement on receipt of this email.

Yours faithfully

Ann Bennett

Vera Arthur

On behalf of the Pontyclun New Town Development working group



What we said at the planning meeting 28.02.2013

Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett - local resident

Pant Marsh runs along the river Clun, between Talbot Green and Pontclun, and is one of the very few natural marshlands left in Wales. It is a valuable open space, and part of what makes Pontyclun a good village to live in and to bring up children.

But at a meeting on the 28th of February, RCT planning and control committee approved the development of a new town retail centre at Talbot Green. This, despite some very sound objections raised by me and many others including your own councillors M and P Griffiths. The eventual decision was obviously a foregone conclusion, and nothing was going to impress them. Councillor after councillor spoke for the development, one councillor in particular made the comment that she and her neighbours wanted to be able to buy a fresh cauliflower at Sainsbury, hence the heading.

What I find seriously bizarre and unreal is the article in RCTs newspaper OUTLOOK, the article headed "town centre transformation" where the same people crow about the huge sums of money invested, about 11 million in all, in regenerating both Pontypridd and Aberdare, and at the same time rationalizing the reason for allowing Valad’s development to go ahead, is that it will stop money leaving the valley's to shop in Cardiff and divert it instead to Talbot Green. The thinking being that will generate wealth within the valleys.

WRONG. What impact is that going to have on both the existing Talbot Green complex, and on Pontypridd, Aberdare and all the little villages and towns in between?

RCT has spent our time and money on a "shop local” campaign to keep villages functioning, there is a blinding contradiction here, don’t you think?
Valad has no interest in our little valley, they have profits to make, but I expected more from the people I knocked doors for to get them elected.
The lack of long term joined up thinking beggars belief.
I and others have asked the Welsh Government to "CALL IN” this development, in a last attempt to save us from this monstrous development.
I am very fond of Pontyclun, I just wish it had the representation it deserves,
and a bit more fizz in its pop to realize the price of a cauli is not worth risking the things that make Pontyclun worth living , as the telly tells us "because we’re worth it ".

I have resolved never to give my hard earned cash to line Valad's pockets, despite the fact that I love the cinema, I will shop local and try and get our own cinema in Pontyclun. Why not ? Cowbridge has.
Claire Williams:
I am a resident of Pontyclun village and a representative of the Pontyclun New Town Centre Working Group.  The Group was formed in response to Valad’s announcement of their plans for the development of a “New Town Centre” at land on the A473.

The Groups public meetings were attended by well over 100 residents, and the mailing list is subscribed by xxx people, who keep in touch with the progress of the Group and the Developers application by way of newsletters and published minutes of the Groups meetings.

I request that the council does not approve the application today.   I ask for further considerations to be made, for a number of reasons:

·       The scale & size of the proposed development;

·       The impact on the existing road network; and

·       Whether the application fulfils the RCT’s guidelines of a “New Town Centre”.

1.     My objections are based on key differences between the approved LDP and the current application. 

The LDP states “total additional non-food floor space of between 24,350 and 28,850m2 net” for Rhondda Cynon Taf... with the “largest proportion of the proposed additional floor space at Talbot Green”.   The applicant is seeking approval of 35,522m2 gross of non-food retail floor space. 

The LDP further states “The Retail Capacity Assessment (2007) indicates that there is a quantitative need for 2,507m2 net convenience retail floor space in Rhondda Cynon Taf”.   The applicant is seeking some 11,000m2 gross for the Sainsbury’s application.

I ask whether its the developers intention to confuse anyone trying to interpret and compare the stated floor space allowances within the LDP which are net figures by submitting the design and access statements in gross figures?

Further clues however can be gleaned from the Design & Access Statement for Phase 1 (which is not part of today’s discussions) which states that floor space for Sainsbury’s will be 11,000m2, of which net sales areas will be 7,230m2 (further split between food and non-food)  The non-food space figure of 4,130m2 is well in excess of the approved LDP figures of 2,507m2.

Is this an indication of the space creep being proposed for the whole development?

2.     My second point is that the proposal does not comply with RCT’s own LDP guidelines.  The LDP states that the purpose of the New Town Centre is primarily to divert economic migration from other shopping areas (i.e. Cardiff) to this new town centre, indeed the application requests some 2,360 car parking spaces to accommodate these new visitors.

As RCT’s ambition is to capture visitors who are migrating to other areas to shop there will be an increase in the traffic to the area.  The proposal does nothing to mitigate the traffic impact that these diverted visitors will make to the site. 

Indeed the application states that there will be no impact on the road network. Further that the Design and Access Statement (September 2012) seems to rely on classing this development as “unique” and therefore doesn’t need to address the issue of adding to the already over congested highways.  At 6.7 the Statement claims that the application “has no detrimental impact on traffic flows on the A473”.

The current adult population of the Pontyclun, Llantrisant and Talbot Green is approximately 13,000.  Current shopping developments in the immediate area of the proposed development provide approximately 1,579 spaces.  With the addition of the proposed 2,360 spaces a total of 3,939 car parking spaces will be available. 

If the development is intended to meet the needs of the immediate areas of Pontyclun, Llantrisant and Talbot Green, surely parking provisions which will allow almost a third of all residents to be parked at any one time across the new and existing shopping areas is excessive.  This demonstrates that this is no more than an out of town retail park, which wishes to encourage people from outside the area and to arrive by car.

I would refer to RCT’s own Traffic Assessment Report, which was commissioned in 2007 and carried out by Hyder Consulting, which says that the A4119 is already at over capacity, and that any development on this land would require extensive improvements to this key road network. Indeed it states that impact could be felt as far out as the M4 should the necessary road improvements not be made prior to any development of the nature and scale proposed be carried out.

3.     What is being proposed and presented as a “New Town Centre”, is nothing more than another out of town retail park, of which this area has sufficient provision already. 

It bears no resemblance to RCT’s guidelines on New Town Centres, which notable states that (in Policy AW5 – New Development) “The site layout and mix of use maximising opportunities to reduce dependence on cars” and “the development would have safe access to the highway network and would not cause traffic congestion or exacerbate existing traffic congestion”.

It is reasonable for most people to consider a Town Centre to be the centre of communication with public transport hubs, town halls, museums and libraries.  Town Centres are symbolic to settlements as a whole and often contain best examples of architecture, main landmark buildings, statues, and public spaces.  (Wikipedia definition of a Town Centre).   The current proposal offer very little in this regard, with the vast majority of the space given over to retail.

If this is to be a true New Town Centre to be proud of, then the size, scale, mix of use and increase of traffic is out of proportion to the existing needs of the local communities of Pontyclun, Talbot Green and Llantrisant.

If this to actually be an Out of Town Retail Park, then proper plans and proposals to support such a scheme should be submitted, with the correct and proper upgrades to the road network put in place prior to any such development proceeding.

The Design Commission for Wales’s Design Review Report dated 25th March 2011 (to which I cannot find further more up to date reports) states that “before any detailed designs can proceed strategic decisions need to be made on access points and pedestrian connections and crossings... at present the project could hardly be less connected in terms of pedestrian and cycle movements... the proposals seem likely to deliver a project that is entirely car oriented...if this proposal is to be more than an edge-of-town retail park, it is vital to address issues beyond the site boundary.”

Finally, I must query whether the process has been a meaningful consultation?

·       there has been a lack of response to correspondence;

·       concerns of the community have not been considered in the addendums to the application; and

·       addendums have been overly long and technical which the ordinary person would find it hard to interpret (e.g. 2 weeks given to respond to the latest traffic addendum which was 197 pages long).

I would urge you therefore not to approve the current proposal.  Thank you.”
Len Arthur:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your proposal
I’ve been involved with the Pontyclun group mentioned in your report from the start.
I share your concerns to develop the economy of RCT and, in particular, provide additional sustainable work.
Also, as mentioned in your report, the Pontyclun group undertook a survey of residents in Pontyclun and Talbot Green and held a number of public meetings.
The main outcome was that about 30% totally opposed the development and about 10% totally in favour.
In between that figure, residents were more supportive of a Sainsburys store and supporting the retention of Leekes, but less increasingly less supportive of the other proposals.
Within our remit from local residents I would like to address the fundamental assumption in the proposal before you.
That it will attract new and existing RCT shoppers and create sustainable employment.
The intention is to demonstrate that new shopping trends have appeared since the original LDP and consequently need to be taken into account.
Thus ensuring a development that will achieve both objectives but in a different way.
In 2011 BIS published a survey showing that between 2000 – 2009 town centre retail stores fell by 15,000.
A trend that is accelerating with 10,000 further stores being lost since 2010.
Indeed in January of this year retail sales fell 0.6% but online trading increased by 8%.
Deloitte, in a report published in 2012 entitled the Changing Face of Retail stated that retail had reached a ‘tipping point’ and it was expected that stores would decline by another 30 – 40% over the next five years.
It is not just these figures that are significant for your consideration but the four mechanisms driving the changes identified by Deloitte, which are:
Consumer spending remaining weak
Business costs, especially fixed continuing to rise
The internet profoundly changing shopping patterns
Intensified competition
Basically – costs are rising and traditional town centre shopping demand falling.
This new situation needs to be taken account of.
What I would suggest
·        Give yourself the flexibility to consider the impact of these trends
·        Don’t lock yourself into this plan by approving the whole outline planning permission today.
·        Support Sainsburys and Leekes on the brown field site as phase 1.
·        Then review other possibilities for the rest of the brown field area.
Such as
·        an extension of the successful Coed Kilay industrial centre
·        and work with Royal Mail to develop their existing  provision into a 24 hour pick up and return depot for internet shoppers with supporting facilities.
The second suggestion would be a first and genuinely unique.
Thus, getting ahead of the new and emerging shopping trends.
Sustainably achieving your twin objectives of attracting local shoppers and providing sustainable employment.
The danger in supporting the plan today is that you provide the developer with enhanced property value which will be rapidly realised by selling on.
But RCT will be left irretrievably committed to this proposal which at worse, could end up not being realised, such as the Westfield town centre development in Bradford which has remained a hole in the ground for the last seven years.