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Plans for almost 300 houses on former Aberdare hospital site approved despite local opposition

Plans for almost 300 houses on the site of the former Aberdare General Hospital site have been approved. Proposals for 299 homes on the site on Abernant Road in Abernant were given the go-ahead by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s planning committee on Thursday, February 23.

The site is made up of 17 hectares of land which was previously the site and grounds of Aberdare Hospital, of which two hectares are previously developed land. The site is on the north western side of Abernant Road and north east of the river between Abernant and Robertstown on the lower eastern slopes of the Cynon Valley.

The planning report said that although it was very much part of Abernant, the site was close to the centre of Aberdare and would benefit from the amenities such as shops, pubs, schools, sport centre and the transport hub. The area of woodland and a field on the site are designated a site of interest for natural conservation (SINC) under the council's local development plan, and there are a number of group tree preservation orders. The report added that some of the land is in a high coal risk area and there is archaeological importance to the site, some of which is vulnerable to low risk flooding.

Access for vehicles to the site is currently gained from the original hospital access from Abernant Road and proposals to improve that have previously been approved. The proposal from WDL Homes is that the entire development be served by a single means of access from Abernant Road in the form of a spine road that will track in a broadly northerly direction through the site.

The remainder of the development will be served from a series of loop roads and cul de sacs (adopted and private) formed from the spine road. The proposal involves keeping as much as possible of the woodland fringes around the site at its entrance and around its fringes.

There were initially 21 letters of objection and comment relating to the application but after more details were submitted in December 2022, another round of public consultation was done which resulted in seven more submissions. Concerns raised included planning policy issues, local housing market assessment and need issues, highways issues, infrastructure issues, trees and ecology concerns, amenity issues, health issues and design issues.

Some of these included whether the development met the identified housing need in the area, that the houses along with other developments will “swamp” Abernant and the highway system will not be able to cope, increased risk to pedestrians and concerns over the access. They also said infrastructure issues had not been addressed clearly, that there will need to be extra places at Abernant Primary School and that the new houses will exacerbate the flood risk.

They also highlighted the presence of a SINC, raised concerns about the impact on protected species and trees and said the development would have an adverse environmental impact in relation to habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, air and noise pollution. They said that an increase in car movements presented an air pollution problem and was likely to adversely affect air quality in the area, and there were also concerns over noise pollution from the development and over how close it will be to existing properties on Abernant Road.

But planning officers recommended that the committee approved the application and they said in the planning report that the application was considered acceptable in principle. They said that though the site is allocated for considerably more than the amount of houses currently proposed, the constraints the site faces in terms of ground conditions, ecology and highway requirements are substantial and justify fewer numbers of houses coming forward.

They said that impacts on the character and appearance of the area and on the privacy and amenity of the wider community were considered acceptable. They added: “Sufficient detail has been provided to conclude that the impact of the proposals on the ecology of the area and trees in particular can be managed through the development process to the point where the obligation to preserve and enhance such features will be met

“The proposals present no insuperable problems with regard to local infrastructure and broad design issues associated with the development are satisfactory. The impact on health in terms of the issues raised by objectors are adequately addressed. By far the greatest concern, as far as local residents are concerned, has been the impact of the proposals on the local highway network. The proposals have been subject to extensive independent interrogation of the transport assessment and other supplementary submissions and highways development control have concluded that the details are acceptable in terms of their impact on the highway network."

Planners pointed to the previous use of the site as hospital, as well as trip reduction applied to social rented homes, the sustainable location of the site in terms of proximity to public transport and Aberdare town centre, impact improvements proposed to active travel links between the development and Aberdare town centre, increased opportunities for residents to work from home, the impact of the transport implementation strategy and Welsh Government policy and initiatives to address climate change.

Local councillors Steven Bradwick and Victoria Dunn of Aberdare East spoke against the application. Cllr Bradwick raised concerns over highways issues and trees saying he wanted a condition that no deliveries will take place at certain times of the day because of the school and hoped a management plan for the trees can be put in place. He also said he hopes none of the dropped kerbs would be removed and said there were no electric vehicle charging points included.

Cllr Dunn said she was pleased the site is being redeveloped by a local developer with a good reputation but that she didn't support it in its current form, adding that she was disappointed that little attention had been given to the housing needs of local people.

Cllr Dunn also had concerns about how Abernant and the surrounding roads will be affected by increased traffic, but committee member Councillor Gareth Hughes said he was yet to see an application of such a size in such a sustainable location and that there would be an economic benefit for the town. He said given its previous use as a hospital that traffic movements would be similar. Fellow committee member Councillor Mike Powell called for a site visit on highways grounds and the visual impact but this was unsuccessful.

The Section 106 contributions required from the developer would be the provision of 10% affordable housing through the development, a financial contribution of £954,371 for education, a long term management plan for play areas, areas of public open space on the site, the agreement of a long term habitat and species mitigation, enhancement and compensation management plan for the ecologically sensitive areas of the site, the agreement of an Employment Skills Training Plan, a payment of £75,000 towards active travel improvements and the agreement of a £500,000 Travel Plan bond.


Major changes to council-run care homes in RCT have been approved

Major changes to council run care homes for the elderly in Rhondda Cynon Taf have been approved. Cabinet on Tuesday, February 28 agreed proposals to close three care homes and create extra care facilities and dementia beds and accommodation and care for adults with learning disabilities in their place as well as proposals to keep five current council care homes for the elderly open.

Cabinet considered feedback from the consultation into the plans which include closing Ystrad Fechan care home in Treorchy and working with Linc Cymru and the health board on developing land near it into accommodation with care facilities including 40 extra care apartments and 20 residential dementia care beds. The report said that following a previous cabinet decision, Ystrad Fechan is currently temporarily closed and has no residents living there.

On this proposal, 53.1% of respondents agreed whereas 25.7% disagreed. Another proposal is to develop land near the existing Ferndale House care home to provide new accommodation with care facilities including 25 extra care apartments and 15 residential dementia care beds and close Ferndale House residential care home when the new proposed alternative accommodation with care for older people is developed.

This is a change to the preferred option that was consulted on which included 20 extra care apartments and 10 residential dementia care beds with 46% agreeing with this and 29.5% disagreeing with this original option. The council is also looking at working with Linc Cymru to explore options to develop land near the existing Troedyrhiw care home in Mountain Ash to provide new accommodation with care facilities including 25 extra care apartments and 15 residential dementia care beds and close the Troedyrhiw care home when the new proposed alternative accommodation with care for older people provision is developed.

In the consultation, 46.5% of respondents agreed with this and 30% disagreed with the option The council will also develop Garth Olwg care home in Church Village to provide alternative accommodation with care facilities to support adults with learning disabilities and to close Garth Olwg care home when suitable alternative placements are found for existing residents in a home of their choice which meets their needs.

In response to this option, 50.5% of those who responded disagreed with the preferred option whereas 34.8% of respondents agreed with the report saying that the overwhelming message from older people and their families was that they wanted Garth Olwg care home to remain open. The five homes which will be kept include Clydach Court in Trealaw, Pentre House in Pentre, Tegfan in Trecynon, Cae Glas in Hawthorn and Parc Newydd in Talbot Green.

On keeping these five homes open, 69.4% of those who responded to the consultation agreed with 21.9% disagreeing.

The views of the overview and scrutiny committee

Cabinet were also given feedback from an overview and scrutiny committee meeting which took place on Monday, February 27 which said that they acknowledged the strong public opposition to the Garth Olwg proposal but they recognised the case for change. The committee has also said it was keen to see proposals to invest in all facilities coming to cabinet as soon as possible.

One member highlighted the focus on capacity rather than a better geographical spread and local access and reassurance was sought that the council is confident that there is resilience in the community to support people to live independently longer and a comment was made that the council should be mindful of the public perception of closing care homes when there is much discussion about bed blocking and patient flow. The committee commented on the need for greater capacity for dementia care as part of the proposals and welcomed the enhancement of that and they saw plans for staff recruitment and retention to support the delivery of the proposals as key.

The views of cabinet members

At the cabinet meeting, council leader Councillor Gareth Caple, the council’s cabinet member for health and social care, said this report “provides a positive pathway to ensure dignity and respect in old age with modern, state of the art extra care homes including provision for more complex needs such as dementia as well as support for those people with learning disabilities in adulthood.” He said he’s fully supportive of the proposals as doing nothing is “not a viable option” in order to meet ever changing expectations as well as ensuring that the council complies with its commitment to maintaining in house residential care homes.

He said: “These changes will undoubtedly enhance the health, well-being and independence of older people in a modern day setting” and that the seven week consultation was extremely positive and supportive. He acknowledged the concern over the Garth Olwg proposal but said there are two extra care facilities, two council care homes and one independent sector care home within a five mile radius of it and said the proposal was unanimously supported by the voices of the people with learning difficulties.

He said they took note of residents’ and trade unions’ concerns that there was under provision of accommodation for the Rhondda Fach so they’ve increased the number of extra care apartments from 20 to 25 and residential and dementia beds from 10 to 15. He said that the council’s current in house care homes no longer meet the standards expected for modern care homes and due to sustained reductions in demand leading to under occupancy, are no longer viable.

He said that these proposals alongside the council’s extra care strategy will lead to a more sustainable model of residential care services providing the best possible care and support for the older generation. Councillor Maureen Webber, the deputy leader, said the increased capacity at Ferndale is positive and that they appreciate the anxiety change creates but that it would not be right to continue with the status quo adding that they need to adapt to the needs and demands of future generations.

Councillor Ann Crimmings said the consultation was well received in the main but she notes the negative comments about Garth Olwg but said they need to realise the multi million pound investment for accommodation with care for people with disabilities in adulthood to be supported. The leader Councillor Andrew Morgan said Garth Olwg only has 50% occupancy and in all likelihood it’s not going to rise and there are vacancies in other homes so across the board they do have a significant number of vacant beds.

He said they need capacity and resilience in the system and they have to consider the longer term plan in their proposals for care.

Plaid Cymru “disappointed” at decision to close Garth Olwg

Heledd Fychan, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central expressed her disappointment at the closure of the Garth Olwg care home. Plaid Cymru said that following the consultation period, it became clear that the majority of people opposed the closure of the home with more than 500 names being submitted between two petitions.

They said that all but one of the current residents of the home opposed the intention to close the home and the clear majority of people, over 70%, wanted to keep the provision exactly as it was. Plaid pointed to a report of the Care Inspectorate Wales which said the residential home in Garth Olwg is somewhere where “People are happy with the support they receive. Care staff are considerate and polite, as well as dedicated to their work. There is a long-standing staff team in place, and they know the needs and preferences of the people they care for.”

Ms Fychan said: “It is disgraceful that the council has decided to proceed with the closure of Garth Olwg Care Home, despite the opposition of the residents of the home, the local community and Care Inspectorate Wales. Once again, this is an example of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Labour cabinet ignoring the opinions of residents and experts, and reducing the number of places available in care homes despite an increase in demand.

“Many will ask what is the purpose of consultation if the council is not willing to listen to the opinion of anyone other than themselves? This is a wrong move on the part of the council, which will adversely affect an essential service in the community. Ioan Bellin, a local Plaid Cymru campaigner in Church Village who opposed the closure of the home, added: “Many people in Church Village will be disappointed with this decision by the Labour Party. There is pride in the community that Garth Olwg has been a centre for excellent residential care for older people for so long, and they feel bitter that this care will end.

“People will have numerous questions to ask local Labour councillors, who were elected last year on the basis that they had protected the future of the care home. They will have to justify their empty promises to the electorate in the next election, and work hard between now and then to restore the trust of the community."

Solar Panel Grant Success

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council have recently secured funding through the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund to implement a grant to support RCT residents in purchasing Solar Panels for their homes.

One of the Council’s priorities is to make existing homes more energy efficient through technologies such as solar panels. The Solar Panel Grant will help residents with the cost of purchasing and installing Solar PV Panels on their homes. Residents are able to receive 25% towards the total cost of purchase and installation, up to a maximum of £1,000 contribution to the overall cost.

If you are a home-owner in RCT, Solar Panels may be a suitable option for you to reduce your homes carbon emissions and save money on your electricity bill by generating your own renewable energy. Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into electricity, direct sunlight is not needed in order for the sun’s energy to be captured as electricity can even be generated on cloudy days!

Since the launch of the grant, many residents have already benefited and installed Solar Panels. Here’s what some of those applicants had to say.

Geraint Williams was interested in installing solar panels in order to reduce his monthly outgoings long term in preparation for retirement. He was grateful to be able to receive a £1,000 contribution towards the cost of works and is already seeing benefits to having the solar PV installed. His energy bills have halved in price and he also plans to sell surplus electricity back to the national grid during the sunnier months. Geraint stated he was overall very pleased with the grant and the service he received throughout the grant process.

Mike Walker had been interested in getting solar panels due to the rise in energy prices and also wanting a backup power source in the event of any power outages. When he came across information on the grant on Facebook, he thought it was a great opportunity to help him purchase and install solar panels as he was able to receive a substantial contribution towards the overall cost. He has felt the benefits of the solar panels immediately, with his grid electricity usage having decreased drastically. He thanked the Councils Heat & Save team for their support during the grant process.

Cllr Mark Norris, Cabinet Member for Development & Prosperity said:

“The Solar Panel Grant offers a great opportunity for our residents to invest in green energy by making solar panels more affordable.

“It’s wonderful to hear how the Solar Panel Grant has benefitted those who have had solar panels installed on their properties, and I hope many more residents will benefit from this scheme in the coming months.”

If you’d like more information on the Solar Panel Grant and other services the Heat & Save team offer please visit their webpage

Or if you’d like to discuss how the solar panel grant could benefit you get in touch with the Heat & Save team on 01443 281136 or heatandsave@rctcbc.gov.uk to discuss further.


Out And About Supporting Our Young People

The Council’s Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) has taken to the road and is out and about in our communities providing activities and support for young people aged between 11 and 25.

The ‘mobile youth clubs’ regularly visit areas across the County Borough, at evenings, after school and during school holidays, offering information, advice and guidance as well as a range of activities to complement the existing Local Authority and voluntary organisations youth clubs.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Member For Education and Youth Participation, said: “Our YEPS mobile hubs provide a valuable network for our young people. These vehicles enable our Youth Workers to deliver information and advice to young people, as well as offer guidance and support if needed, including mental health and well-being support.

“The mobile hubs are reaching out to young people in our communities and it seems they are being well received wherever they park up.”

The heated vehicles are fitted with seating areas, laptop connections, free Wi-Fi capability and television screens and are able to host general youth clubs and gatherings, gaming sessions, arts and crafts, film nights, sports activities and youth forum meetings where young people are encouraged to discuss and take action on issues that affect them.

They are the ideal place to enjoy recreation time in a safe environment while making new friends at the same time.

YEPS Staff are also on hand to provide a more targeted provision such as CV writing, job application support, interview techniques and youth worker one-to-one support in a confidential space if needed.

The vehicles also act as bases for the Youth Engagement and Participation Service at large community events and can also be deployed when the Service requires an immediate response within a specific community at times of emergency to provide youth support if required.

The Council’s Youth Engagement and Participation Service (YEPS) provides the statutory Youth Service for Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council for young people aged 11-25. This service is provided by a workforce of qualified staff made up of school-based workers, community-based youth workers, specialist youth work teams and skilled part-time staff.

Find out more about RCT Youth Engagement Participation Service and the weekly locations of the mobile youth provision

You can also follow YEPSRCT on Facebook and Twitter.


Aberdare Festival returning for 2023!

Aberdare Festival returns on Saturday 6th May 2023 so why not come and spend part of the bank holiday weekend in stunning Aberdare Park and enjoy all the entertainment on offer?

This year, the event will include celebrations for the Coronation of King Charles III. The event runs from 11am – 5pm, entry is FREE and there’s a whole host of free family fun and entertainment, as well as a funfair, food stalls and live entertainment already confirmed.

Further activities and attractions are set to be confirmed in the coming weeks so please follow @whatsonrct on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates. Information will also be available on the festival’s website www.aberdarefestival.co.uk

Cllr Maureen Webber, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said: “Aberdare Festival 2022 was a record breaker with thousands of residents and visitors enjoying the free entertainment and of course, all the activities that are permanently on offer in Aberdare Park, such as the lake and boats and Aquadare splashpad.

“Both Aberdare Park and Aberdare Festival are jewels in Rhondda Cynon Taf’s crown so it’s fitting the festival will be held over the weekend of the coronation of King Charles III. I hope residents and visitors come along to enjoy a great start to this year’s extra bank holiday.”

Aberdare Festival 2023 is sponsored by Nathaniel Cars, who have been keeping the residents of Rhondda Cynon Taf and beyond on the road for more than 35 years, as trusted car dealers with branches in Cardiff and Bridgend.

The What’s On RCT team is inviting businesses to hold stalls and exhibitions at the festival. Whether you sell cupcakes or hand-made candles then we want to hear from you! Join us and make the day extra special for our visitors – it’s also a great way to raise the profile of your business. You can download application forms here.

The final details of Aberdare Festival, including the full timetable of events and attractions throughout the weekend, will be published on What’s On RCT Facebook, twitter and Instagram channels. You can also visit www.aberdarefestival.co.uk to find out more.

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