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Grangetown residents in a ‘David and Goliath’ battle against development firm

Residents have two weeks to object to a major new development on their doorstep. How do they feel it is threatening their community and what are they doing to protest it?

A group of Grangetown residents are protesting a major new development in their community, and will spend the next two weeks collecting complaints to take to Cardiff Council.

The group, based in Pentre Gardens, has until 13 December to send formal objections about a block of new flats (named ‘Bottle Works Wharf’) to the planning department, who will then pass concerns onto developers.

The group has already seen success with a petition they organised, gathering enough signatures to speak in Council about their worries.

Additionally, talks with the developers Rightacres have resulted in a reduction of the development’s height and size, from seven storeys down to five. But they feel this is not enough.

“This is an important site. It’s right opposite the city centre,” says Simon Newman, a Pentre Gardens resident.

“If you look at this building [the new development], there is not one door. There are no public spaces, no bars, no cafes, nothing. How does this building interact with this river walk, which is an important part of the walk-ability of the city?”

Rightacres’ most recent plans for their proposed Bottleworks Wharf development. (Image: Rightacres)

Judy Davies, another Pentre Gardens resident, says, “There is a clear divide across the River Taff, between us and the city centre. What they [Rightacres] are trying to do is bring us closer. But we’re saying ‘no’, we’re a residential area.”

“There’s a lot of concern about this being  a ‘stepping stone’ to building further high-rises across Grangetown. It’s going to be high-end, it’s going to be expensive. It’s nothing for the community.”

Simon Newman adds, “It’s not about us. It’s about the city centre.”

Map detailing proposed Bottleworks Wharf in green, and affected Pentre Gardens houses in red. (© Mapbox© OpenStreetMap© DigitalGlobe)

Concerns about the development’s impact on the community, the supposed “dead space” it brings, and the lack of affordable housing for Grangetown locals are issues that all echo debates surrounding developments in other areas of Cardiff.

Rightacres’ Chief Executive, Paul McCarthy, commented on his discussions with the group: “I personally sat at the kitchen table of a house in Pentre Gardens on a number of occasions with some of the residents closest to the proposed Bottleworks development to try and get to a compromise scheme and alleviate their concerns. It became clear however that they were opposed to almost any suggestion.”

However, residents are upset that a representative of Rightacres is yet to attend a public discussion, and claim that all contact between the two parties has been initiated by the residents themselves.

This deterioration in relations has caused local councillors to step in as intermediaries in discussions.

Pentre Gardens, Grangetown: the community coming together in the face of adversity. (Image: Geograph)

Beyond the example it may set for further developments in Grangetown, residents are also concerned about access to daylight and traffic issues.

“We’ll lose the path of the sun, from sunrise to about 10am. If we lose that then we’ve essentially lost all our sunlight,” says Simon Newman.

For residents located slightly further away from the proposed Bottleworks Wharf development, Judy Davies says, “Traffic problems will affect the wider community. So if you ask down the road, they’ll be worried about parking or traffic.”

Speaking of traffic concerns in particular, Labour councillor Ashley Lister, has said, “We are looking more at public transport options rather than saying there needs to be enough parking spaces.”

The site of the proposed development, a former recycling centre. (Image: Geograph)

But residents remain unconvinced. “We’re not against the development, it’s just the size and scale of it. We know the site is going to be developed somehow and that’s fine. But it’s humongous,” says Judy Davies.

Simon Newman adds, “Looking at it more, even if the size came down, it’s still got that dead space. I’m getting more and more opposed to the development as a whole.”

The Pentre Gardens residents are still busy compiling formal complaints, and will submit them to Cardiff Council on 13 December.

You can keep up to date with their progress on Twitter