Posted: Tue 2nd Jul 2019

Updated: Tue 2nd Jul

University plans for 410 residential flats gets green light – council officer ‘told’ not to recommend refusal for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jul 2nd, 2019

Up to 410 residential apartments are set to be built on land at Wrexham Glyndwr University, despite concerns over traffic congestion from local members and the council’s own highways department.

The plans for the development – which includes the demolition of the the ‘redundant student halls’ on Plas Coch Road – were given the go ahead yesterday evening despite and questions over why objections from the council’s own highways department “had not been listened to” in a more forceful than usual disagreement between officers.

Andrew Smith, a planning consultant acting on behalf of Wrexham Glyndwr University, said the land was no longer required for student accommodation and that whilst there will be a slight increase on traffic movements, the development would be in “one of the most sustainable locations in the area.”

It was also noted that the application was for ‘up to’ 410 apartments, meaning any future development could consist of less.

Planning officer David Williams described the plans as a “windfall site” which will help reduce pressure on the green barrier elsewhere in the county borough.

He added that the “high density scheme in a sustainable location” would address the need for smaller properties and could reduce the number of HMOs in town.

However it was the term “sustainable location” and what it means in the broader sense that was the crux of the main debate throughout all of the university’s applications yesterday.

Cllr Marc Jones, who represents the Grosvenor ward, said there is a difference between the “reality and the utopia” of being people car free by cycling and relying on public transport to get around.

He continued: “The reality is very different, an inner city would be very different. We don’t have any green travel plans as part of this.

“The idea that you will reduce congestion by reducing car parking spaces sounds good in theory, but in my ward there is the DWP with 100 spaces and 400 people working there.

“Do they all walk or cycle? No, they park in the neighbouring residential streets.

“If you can give me a guarantee that no one will park in neighbouring street, I might support. It is the reality not the fantasy this is what is going to happen

“We have to be living in the real world and not a utopia where everyone bikes or walks to work.”

Cllr Alun Jenkins, who represents the nearby Offa ward, questioned why the lack of support from the council’s highways department was not being listened to and called for a minimum of one space per apartment; along with additional spaces for visitors.

He said: “There are so many difficulties associated with this.

“The lack of parking in one and the entrance to the roundabout is already difficult at the best of times. The link between there and the B&Q Roundabout is one of the busiest roads we have got.”

Cllr Gwenfair Jones, Gwersyllt West, added: “The hospital is very close to this area. We may be ok to be stuck in car for a few minutes, but an ambulance in blue lights is different situation.”

The meeting also saw disagreement between the council’s planning and highways officer, with the latter stating that the department was unable to support the proposed development due to the increased congestion at the B&Q and Berse Road Roundabouts.

Comments were also made about a 44 per cent shortfall in parking provision on the site, with the highways officer noting that the committee attach a condition for each apartment to have its own individual space each if the committee were minded to approve the application.

In terms of an increase in traffic, the highways officer added: “Most people who live or work in Wrexham will recognise the Plas Coch roundabout, the B&Q Roundabout, Berse Road roundabouts has been an area suffering from serious congestion issues at peak hours.

In the ongoing clearly less than cordial exchanges, Highways fired back to Planning, “I note the planning officer has referred to highway comments about these being anecdotal as though they are somehow untrue.

“The council themselves undertook a survey to look at the congestion issues around the A483, Mold Road and B&Q Roundabouts a couple of years ago and they both state that the roundabouts and the surrounding areas are at an over capacity.”

Although no formal objections were submitted by the highways department, the officer also pointed out that he had been “told not to recommend refusal” for the plans, despite concerns that the number of dwelling proposed for that area would have a “detrimental impact”.

Cllr Carrie Harper, Queensway ward, later added that alarm bells were ringing about the comments and questioned who had told the department not to reject the plans on highways grounds.

Cllr Harper referred to the comments when speaking on the next planning application (Dean Road) and branded them as ‘very very strange’ and that they were ‘quite frankly astounding’, adding “Serious alarm bells are ringing, and should be for everyone else in Wrexham”.

Planning Chair Cllr Morris replied to ‘dispel’ any issues, however it was not on that topic but regarding another point made about gifting of land. No clarity was given that we could spot in the several hour meeting over the comments, or who actually instructed the officer not to make a recommendation in a certain way.

Planning Officer Mr Williams said he “finds it frustrating” that a shortfall of parking is being referenced in terms of a “sustainable” town centre location.

He continued: “You can’t separate the issue of traffic congestion and parking. If you resolve one then you create more of a problem with the other.

“I do find it frustrating when we have a situation where it is a sustainable location and we are making comments about a 44 per cent shortfall of the maximum

“Why are we encouraging more parking when we recognise there is already an issue with congestion in the area. Surely the solution is to allow a scheme to proceed with fewer parking spaces in that location.

“It is unfortunate that the comment has been made. I am not going to suggest that it shouldn’t be considered by any means.

“But if you were to apply that rationale to any development in the town centre we might as well say we won’t support any growth in Wrexham and let’s just leave it because we don’t want anymore traffic and we have no space for parking.”

A bid to reject the proposals on highways grounds was overturned by councillors, with nine voting against that proposal.

A majority of committee members voted in favour of giving the plans the go ahead – so expect more detailed plans and a final number of apartments for the site at a later date.

You can read our coverage of plans to build over 300 new student flats and the redevelopment of the Mold Road campus here.

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