Swansea housing project proposed
There was a time, before the slightly byzantine reorganisation of local government in Wales, when Swansea was just a city. Now, however, the local authority is the City and County of Swansea, enabling the second-largest city in Wales to join Bristol and London in being both a county and city at the same time.
However, much of the new Swansea area was not formerly part of the city and is somewhat rural. This is particularly true of the Gower Peninsula, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for its rugged coastal scenery and numerous historic and prehistoric traces of past settlement.
This means that when it comes to planning developments for the future economic and housing needs of Swansea, much of the area is effectively off-limits. This is both because of the planning constraints that apply to the protected Gower area, and the obvious negative implications for the local tourist economy of concreting over large parts of one of the most scenic parts of Wales.
However, areas closer to the heart of the city may offer much better prospects, and a planning application has been made for a major project to build nearly 2,000 homes over 13 years on agricultural land on the north-western outskirts of the city.
Llanmoor Development Company is seeking planning permission for a "residential-led, mixed-use" scheme on a 284-acre site to the west of Llangyfelach Road. This highway divides these green fields from the existing north Swansea suburbs of Llangyfelach, Mynydd Bach and Penderry.
All that could change if planning permission is granted, and for tradesmen fitting shower waterproofing and carrying out other plumbing works, this would provide a pipeline of 13 years of work. That would be the timescale for the project, with the houses being built in two phases. Under this schedule, 1,160 would be in place by 2025 and another 790 by 2030.
This would not be all, as the project would also include laying utilities, building a new link road as well as the network of residential streets, a new primary school, footpaths and cycle paths, plus some of the green space being kept for parkland and playing fields.
Building on green fields around the edge of cities can be controversial, not least if land within city boundaries is classed as green belt. Contentious plans around Britain include proposed housing around the eastern edge of Sutton Coldfield to help meet Birmingham's needs, and the hotly-contested Aberdeen stadium project by the city's western boundary at Kingswells.
However, in Wales, such developments may be looked on more favourably. Cardiff also contains plenty of green land within its boundaries - though nothing with protected status like the Gower peninsula - and earlier this year planning permission was granted for 6,000 new homes to be built in the form of the Plasdwr garden village. There are some close parallels with Llanmoor's plan in Swansea; it, too, will be built on the north-western edge of the city, within the boundary but on green fields adjacent to existing suburbs.
Cardiff City Council recently unveiled plans for 11,000 new homes to be built by 2022 in order to meet its soaring housing needs. While dozens of brownfield sites have been identified in the city as potential sites for new housing, these will not be enough.
The last census revealed that Cardiff's population had soared by 11 per cent in the decade since 2001. The city is expected to go on becoming more crowded, from around 330,000 residents to 400,000 by the 2030s. If Swansea needs to find green fields to build on, the Welsh capital needs to do so much more.