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Cardiff Council

Councillor Caro Wild's updates

​​​​​Image of Councillor Caro Wild and Cardiff's Capital Ambition logo

Since taking up the role of Cabinet Memeber for Strategic Planning and Transport a couple of years ago, I’ve found there are few things in Cardiff that stimulate more debate among residents than house building and transport.

Mainly, people ask (or tell) me, “How on earth can you allow more houses to be built when our roads are already so busy? Why doesn’t the public transport infrastructure go in before the houses go up?” This is usually quickly followed with, “Are you bonkers?”

These are, of course, very reasonable questions and I do hope you’ll give me the time to try and answer them.​​​​​​​​​​​​

I suppose it’s fair to say that if you look at it from the point of view of the average Cardiff resident driving into the city to work every day, struggling for their bit of road space with the 80,000 other car commuters from outside the city’s boundaries, then sure - building more houses and creating more traffic sounds like the most ‘bonkers’ idea ever.

So how can we possibly justify allowing tens of thousands more homes within Cardiff’s boundaries with all the extra traffic that will bring?

Well, first and foremost, Cardiff is growing and people need homes. Our city is a success story. We are the fastest-growing city in the UK outside of London with a projected growth of just over 20% between 2015 and 2035 (an additional 72,000 people). People want to live here and they want to work here. Why? Simply because there are few other cities in the UK which can guarantee the quality of life and affordability that Cardiff does. We are not unique in this growth - the UN predicts that 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050.

Even if we were allowed to choose to not build any more homes - to stifle that growth - the outcome would likely be a housing crisis greater than the one we face now. A crisis which already sees 8,000 people on the Council’s waiting list looking for an affordable home. House prices would rocket as supply dries up and the less well-off would be denied a chance to ever step on to the housing ladder. Meanwhile, the city would stagnate, jobs would go elsewhere.

So, for me, halting growth is not an option, not when people need roofs over their heads and jobs, not when we have a city ready to take full advantage of growth and the huge economic boost it can bring to the region and to Wales.

So if we accept we’ve got a growing city and that’s a good thing, how do we manage that growth sustainably?

This is where planning comes in and this is what brings me to the Local Development Plan (LDP) and ‘managed growth’ which is what the LDP allows us to do.

Firstly, one thing to be clear about, having an LDP is not a choice. It is part of a Local Authority’s duty to have a plan in place. And having no plan in place would restrict our ability to manage or turn down inappropriate development proposals. 

I’ve heard so many mistruths and read so many misleading statements about Cardiff’s LDP that I wanted to take a little time to (hopefully) clear things up. So let’s have a go at dispelling some of them while digging into some more detail of what an LDP actually is. 

Issue 1: Houses and giant estates are being built in the city with no thought for how they will impact on the people who live in Cardiff now.

That’s simply not true. In fact, without a managed LDP, which we have, developers would have a better chance of building what they want, where they want, and your Council would have major trouble stopping then. The LDP gives your Council the power to make demands on developers, it allows us to masterplan the city so it is fit for the future. 

Previously, built communities have often been a patchwork quilt of developments that don’t quite sit well together and which lack obvious infrastructure such as public transport routes or even schools. 
The LDP allows us to masterplan a district in advance, and then requires developers to build within that framework.

This means that different sites might be built at different times, by different developers, but they all have to work within a framework. Developers are also then expected to contribute to more substantial infrastructure as part of this plan and this can be phased. This works particularly well when it’s a larger area, allowing plans to include schools, parks, shops, transport links and health centres, essentially building new communities which work as places to live and take into consideration neighbouring communities.

Issue 2: Developers are not being expected to provide or pay for key infrastructure. They are simply driven by building as many houses to make as much money as they can. 

Whilst I can’t comment on the motivations of property developers, or control their profits, they are absolutely expected to deliver agreed social infrastructure, affordable housing and transport provision. 
The infrastructure being built as part of the LDP in Cardiff is impressive. Did you know that the sites in the North West of Cardiff alone will provide:

  • Five primary schools;
  • One secondary school;
  • Four local shopping centres;
  • One new district centre 
  • A Community Hub and health facility;
  • A new 1,500 capacity park and ride;
  • Parks, pitches, allotments and children’s play areas;
  • Green investment and ecological mitigations;
  • Around 2,000 new affordable homes.

Issue 3: But why aren’t roads and schools built before developers get the go-ahead?

This is another good question that I hear a lot. When it comes to building infrastructure, and in particular transport links, sadly, the UK still doesn’t quite have the economic or policy framework to ensure all of these things are in place up front, and Local Authorities don’t have the money to build stuff. Instead, much of the infrastructure gets built by the developers at key stages of growth, often using triggers and thresholds (based on the number of people moving in) so the developers are held to delivery. 

For say a school, this makes good sense, as you couldn’t run a school with a handful of pupils. Suitable transport infrastructure is also part of the plan, and public transport does need passengers to be viable, but I concede this doesn’t always happen as early as is ideal and I’d like to see different levels of government working together on this to find ways of releasing finance earlier. 

Issue 4: More houses means more cars which means more gridlock. We know that things can seize up now if one major road goes down - how bad will it get in the future?

This city has a road network designed for a population of 200,000, but today our population is heading towards 400,000 and we have another 100,000 commuters traveling from outside the city boundaries to work in Cardiff every day - the vast majority of those by car.

The development sites in the North West of Cardiff are designed to be amongst the most sustainable communities in the UK, with cycling and walking woven throughout. There is also over £20 Million investment due to go into bus routes and services, along with junction upgrades. Much of this work is going on now locally, and can be seen further down the transport corridor with new bus lanes around Cathedral Road. 

But let’s be clear, problems of future traffic congestion will not just be caused by newcomers to Plasdŵr. We urgently need to shift people out of cars across the whole region. Traffic doesn’t just create congestion, it also creates air pollution which damages our health and contributes to climate change. This is why we recently announced our transport vision which we believe can help Cardiff become one of the greenest, most sustainable cities in the UK. 

Read more about the transport vision​​​​​​​​​​​External link opens in a new window​​​​​​​. Within this vision is a new Cardiff Crossrail metro line, which would connect the new developments in the North West, to the city centre beyond. Partly what has enabled this to happen was the LDP which clearly stipulated that Metro access needed to be protected through the Plasdŵr, Junction 33 and South Creigiau sites.

Issue 5: You don’t need to build on greenfield sites, there are plenty of brownfield sites available. 

Setting aside the fact that if you live in Cardiff, your home was almost certainly at one stage in a field, the vast majority of houses built in recent times HAVE been on brownfield sites. Over the past ten years, over 90% of all new home completions have been on brownfield sites. This includes large parts of Butetown and Grangetown, Splott, and more recently the new developments at Ely Mill in Canton. And whilst city-centre ‘density’ is considered to be more sustainable than greenfield growth, let’s not forget that existing communities are often impacted by this development.

But even with a continued focus on brownfield sites, such as the plans for Dumballs Road and the hundreds of new council houses being built across the city, this will still not meet the demand. Interestingly, in 2010 Cardiff Council actually proposed a brownfield-only LDP, which had to be withdrawn as the planning inspectorate deemed the approach was unsound and there was not the space available. And I go back to the top of this piece - we have to provide houses for people. 

What our LDP does though, is ensure that green space is kept within and around the developments.
The city’s green corridors are continued and accessible parks and green spaces are very much part of the growth. There are also high standards in place for nature and biodiversity, with detailed guidance around areas such as trees, hedgerows, sustainable drainage, ecology and biodiversity. Guidance includes requirements for things like bat and bird boxes, and even gaps under fences to allow hedgehogs to roam.

Managing growth sustainably is certainly a challenge for cities, especially around transport. But I do believe Cardiff’s current LDP is a robust and sensible policy to help us manage the growth we face. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts. We are facing an incredible challenge to build a city of the future, a sustainable city and a healthy city. A city of opportunity and one which has equality at its heart, a city where everyone can benefit from the growth we are witnessing. I hope that doesn’t sound too bonkers, does it?

Are you interested in finding out how many schools and infrastructure projects the LDP’s 8 strategic development sites will bring to the city? See information on plans and progress on Cardiff's Local Development Plan​.

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