Decision on controversial Model Farm development put on hold

A MAJOR decision which was due on plans to build a business park on land which has been farmed on for generations has been put on hold.

Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee was informed that a decision on whether or not they wish to approve Legal & General’s application for a business park on Model Farm in Rhoose will be deferred.

The council is deferring the decision in order to give the applicants, Legal & General to review reports in their application that may need to be updated.

Cllr Neil Thomas, who was chairing the planning committee meeting on October 19, said: “We have received representation that queried the issue that some of the reports informing that this application may not be within date and we are asking the applicants to review these reports and whether they need to be updated.”

The original planning decision to grant the application, which was made in July 2021, was quashed due to a lack of viability information.

Although the council will have a say on whether or not to approve the application, it is still subject to a holding direction from the Welsh Government.

This restricts the grant of permission until the Welsh Government decides whether the application should be referred to ministers.

No date has been given for when the application will go back to the council’s planning committee.

Cllr Thomas added: “This is now deferred to a future meeting for when these reports are clarified.”

Gethin Jenkins, whose family has worked and lived on Model Farm for generations, said the farm means “everything” to them.

He said: “The only thing I ever wanted to do was farm and we have taken great pride in farming the Model for all these years.

“My son has got two daughters and they just love it out on the farm. It is a way of life and it has been a way of life for the Jenkins family for nigh on 90 years now.”

Mr Jenkins feels the loss of the farm, which is used for rearing beef cattle and growing wild flowers to sell wild flower seeds, would be a blow to the whole of the Vale as well.

He said: “In current times, it is hugely important. With everything that has gone on with the war in the Ukraine, now is a time that this country should be looking to provide food for the people of Great Britain from within our own shores.

“Why take away a productive working farm that grows crops to feed its own livestock? It is very much self sufficient and any surplus goes on to help other farmers feed their stock or to provide basic essentials for the general public.

“It just seems crazy to take this away for a purely speculative development, which has been proven to be a non starter by two independent viability reports.”

One of the viability reports, conducted by independent experts Avison Young, states in one section: “We think it is unlikely that this level of demand exists in this location.

“We are of the opinion that the take-up rate proposed is unachievable as evidenced below.

“Competition from existing business parks and the recently launched Bro Tathan Development will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on take-up.”

Mr Jenkins added: “We can’t just magic up some alternative ground to farm. They stopped making land a long time ago and people who are into farming tend to carry on farming.

“We can’t just say ‘well instead of farming 200 acres at the model, we will just go across the road and we will farm 200 acres over there’ because that ground is just not available.”

A Legal & General spokesperson said: “We remain committed to obtaining planning permission for the Model Farm site. Job creation is now more important than ever, and creating over 4,000 new jobs must be seen as essential for the future of the Welsh economy.

“In addition to foretasted new jobs, the development will bring wider social and environmental benefits, including the transfer of 48 hectares of land to the Vale of Glamorgan Council to form an extension to Porthkerry Country Park, providing a significant biodiversity net gain.

 “This is a plan led development, within one of eight Enterprise Zones designated by the Welsh Government. The merits of this development were outlined at the Vale of Glamorgan Council Planning Committee meeting last year, as a major opportunity for economic growth.”

A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: “The viability information in full has not been attached as an appendix to the committee report, but it has been made available on the council’s website for all members to view.”

On the matter of a holding direction and whether the application should be referred to Ministers, the spokesperson added: “WG have indicated that they are awaiting an updated report from the council prior to making that decision.

“That means the application is again being reported to planning committee following the production of this updated report by officers. Committee members will be asked to consider its contents and whether they agree with officer’s recommendation for approval.

“Should there be a resolution to approve the application from members, the council would await a decision from Welsh Government on whether it should be referred to Welsh ministers.”

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