Local councillors voice anger after university’s housing plans backed for approval
Local councillors have voiced their anger after a university’s controversial housing plans were backed for approval.
A crunch meeting is set to be held next week to determine proposals by Wrexham Glyndwr University to enable almost 200 homes to be built in two areas of Wrexham to part fund the £60 million regeneration of its main campus.
The university says gaining permission to create houses on grazing land in New Broughton and a sports field in Rhosnesni is an integral part of its ambitions, as it intends to sell the plots off to property developers.
It was revealed last week that the two schemes, which form part of a total of nine submissions to be decided on, have been recommended to go ahead by Wrexham Council’s chief planning officer Lawrence Isted.
However, they have attracted a large number of objections, including from the authority’s own highways department amid concerns about the impact on traffic.
Cllr Alan Edwards, who represents New Broughton, said allowing the outlined 112 new homes off Gatewen Road would significantly add to journey times on the main roads around Wrexham Maelor Hospital, potentially delaying ambulances and other emergency vehicles.
It comes after a traffic report showed it would cause drivers to queue for an extra four minutes at a key junction.
Cllr Edwards said: “I think it will have an impact on New Broughton, but the bigger impact will be on the vital arteries to the hospital, and to the joint ambulance and fire station.
“It might only delay them for a few minutes, but that time could be important. We’ve got three Wrexham officers who have actually recommended refusal and Lawrence has ignored them all.
“Glyndwr are saying that they need to sell the planning permission on to fund the campus, well where’s the evidence for that?”
Meanwhile, the plans for 74 houses on a sports field on Dean Road in Rhosnesni have been met with dozens of objections from nearby residents.
The approval of that scheme has also been recommended despite highways officers again suggesting refusal because of the impact on traffic on Holt Road.
Sports Wales has also objected because of the loss of green space, which it said was in contravention of national planning policies.
Glyndwr has pledged to provide a replacement sports pitch to address some of the concerns, but part of the land allocated is owned by the council, and its executive board has yet to meet to decide whether to give it to the university.
Cllr Mike Davies, who represents Rhosnesni, said people living near the site had been left upset at the potential loss of open space.
He said: “I am extremely disappointed that despite so many reasons to oppose some of these applications, council senior officers have decided to recommend acceptance of every application.
“It seems that the requirement for new homes takes precedence over everything else. I have lived in Rhosnesni all my life and the land has always been open to the public.
“It may have passed through different owners over the years, but it has been used variously for rugby, hockey and football, as well as other public events such as fetes when I was very young.”
In his report, Mr Isted cited the shortfall of housing land in the county borough as an overriding factor favour of the plans.
Glyndwr said it had taken the feedback of residents on board when submitting the applications.
Vice-chancellor Maria Hinfelaar added that their approval was key to the university’s future success.
She said: “We have worked with the local community, council and other stakeholders to ensure our submitted planning applications take everyone’s feedback into account.
“Our original proposals have been revised across several of our applications based on feedback from the council, highways and other local stakeholders before being finalised in recent weeks to ensure that they are compliant.
“Our Campus 2025 strategy is about the university and Wrexham as a whole – for the future prosperity of the town.
“It is for everyone living, working or studying in Wrexham; there is a great economic and social advantage to having a successful university and investment into our university will bring more students which will help to attract and retain talent to the region.”
Pictures: Planning documents
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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