One of the largest developments likely to take place in Cardiff over the next 10-15 years is the creation of an entirely new suburb on vacant farmland in the North West of the city. The development is currently known as Plasdwr by developer Redrow, and it dubs itself as Cardiff’s “new Garden City” (Ebeneezer Howard turns slightly in his grave).
With any development over a certain size there is bound to be a certain element of NIMBYism (‘Not In My Back Yard’) from people concerned about an increase in traffic, a decrease in their property value and a strain on already over stretched-resources. But people living in the nearby suburbs of Radyr, Fairwater and Danescourt have been particularly vocal in their opposition to this development. But is their opposition understandable?
This type of development is nothing new, Cardiff seems to go through cycles of creating large new suburbs on greenfield sites almost every decade (see Danescourt in the 1970s, St Mellons in the 1980s and Pontprennau in the 1990s), the thorny issue here, however, seems to be Plasdwr’s location and how people living there will get around.
As the above plan shows, Plasdwr will be accessed via two new junctions off Llantrisant Road, the junctions will be designed to cope with the anticipated levels of traffic going in and out of Plasdwr, but there seems to be no provision within the plans to widen the sections of Llantrisant Road before or after these new junctions. Anybody who’s ever driven down Llantrisant road between 7:30am and 9:00am knows how bad it already is, surely this is going to make it much much worse?
Time for some sketchy maths here and a few assumptions, so bear with me.
The current proposal is for a total of 5,970 homes to be constructed over a period of about 15 years (so let’s say roughly 400 homes per year). It’s safe to assume that, as most of these homes are being targeted at “families”, they will almost certainly have at least 1 car (maybe more, so lets say an average of 1.5 cars per household). That means an extra 600 cars in this part of Cardiff every year for 15 years. Now is where the assumptions get a bit wild, assuming that even half of those car owners will have to travel to work for the start of a normal working day (say 9 o’clock) that means 300 extra cars on the road between the hours of about 7:00am and 9:00am (equating to roughly 2.5 cars every minute).
Even with some wild assumptions 2.5 extra cars every minute doesn’t seem very many, but that’s only the increase per year. So by 2018 it will be 2.5 extra cars per minute but by 2019 it will be 5 and by the year 2027 it will be 25 extra cars every minute just as a direct result of this development. Suddenly local opposition to Plasdwr is understandable.
So what are the solutions? Cardiff Council’s local Development plan (2006 – 2026) speaks of encouraging more people to use sustainable or public transport, hoping to achieve a 50/50 split between car use and other methods by the year 2026. This target is, in my opinion, completely unrealistic unless significant money is spent improving public transport in the city. One such proposal which keeps being mentioned is the South Wales Metro project, a system which hopes to bring together trains, buses and new technologies such as trams under one banner to better link Cardiff and the surrounding area.
But the Metro was first mentioned in 2011, we have now reached 2017 and the only work to take place as part of the new £1.2b Metro project is a new car park at Radyr Station and enough reports and paperwork to send an insomniac to sleep. We have yet to see a firm proposal on new stations or new routes.
Running through the middle of Plasdwr is the route of a disused railway line. The Llantrisant No.1 Branch line, which spurred off the existing city line and headed up towards Creigiau Quarry, is almost entirely undeveloped. Early proposals for Plasdwr highlighted this former route and alluded to it being part of the Metro network, but more recent plans have seen this become simply a cycle route. A firm proposal to reintroduce a railway of some sort should be produced to ensure that this route is safeguarded and not built on by developers.
But proposed railway lines and an increase in bus frequency is not enough, the Council also need to address the issue of Llantrisant Road. It is already over-capacity, and with near-6000 new homes on the horizon this is only going to get worse. Widening the road is the obvious solution, but while there is room near Radyr and Danescourt, there is none by the time you’re funnelling down the narrow corridor through historic Llandaff.
As a resident of Danescourt I understand the traffic concerns, but I am also acutely aware that there are currently not enough homes in Cardiff for the people who need them. Developments like this are a necessary evil, but that doesn’t mean local authorities should allow all developments without thinking of their wider consequences. It is my view that the council should not grant permission for this development until two things have happened:
1. they can find a permanent solution to the traffic on Llantrisant Road, and
2. Firm plans of a new Metro line/station in this area have been produced.
Unfortunately, the proposals for outline planning are going before Cardiff’s planning Committee on Wednesday March 15th where it will inevitably be accepted and I can’t see either of these happening before then…