Planning nightmare

25 October, 2006
Caerphilly County Council's plans for redeveloping a tip into a business park didn't quite complement current investment and energy-saving trends, writes Jonathan Brace
Page 13 
A local council would cut its right hand off to attract inward investment from a company that employed as many people as Brace's Bakery - nearly 400, with a successful track record. It would put in all the roads and services necessary, especially if the company had a big international name. Then, probably, like many before it, it would move away once the grants ran out.
But Brace's Caerphilly County Borough Council took the opposite approach when it decided to redevelop the local Oakdale colliery site and tip, and resurrect it as a business park. The council reckoned it could create between 5,000 and 8,000 new jobs. For this project, it would need access to the park. It is an issue we have been battling for the past eight years.== cunning plan ==The local town of Blackwood required easing of its traffic congestion but had plans for a bypass turned down by the Welsh Office on a number of occasions. So the council came up with a cunning plan. By adding access to the business park via Blackwood Bypass, then changing the name from bypass to Enterprise Way, it could have both.There was a flaw to this plan. There were already two existing industrial estates, Pen-y-fan and Croespenmaen next to the business park, where we have production facilities and had perfectly adequate access.What the council did was block this access off to goods vehicles. It did this by calling a public meeting advertised in the local newspaper, which we and many other businesses missed. It did not inform us of what it was up to.The cost of the Enterprise Way was £36m. The problem being it heads west and the existing road heads east, making the new road 6½ miles further around through seven roundabouts.== negative impact == I even went to see the director, Roger Webb, from the Directorate of Environment (Highways to me and you). He was unaware of how the road disadvantaged existing businesses. In fact, he told me I was wrong and had to look at a plan to see I was correct. They were so caught up in their own planning, they had not considered the negative impact.Every couple of months for eight years, I wrote to him. I did get them to move the weight restriction from 7½ to 18 tonnes but this still means our articulated vehicles, deliveries of flour and raw materials, have to circumnavigate the now open Enterprise Way. This, we consider to have cost us 30 to 40 minutes per trip, a gallon of fuel each way, totalling £100k of extra cost. In this climate of increasing energy costs, it's another to add to the pile. For a council not to be bound by commercial considerations is par for the course.Even if everyone is against a plan but the council wants to do it, it will, and make you suffer. It has caused a compromise for residents and businesses. I feel disenfranchised by its actions, yet our rates pay for their shortfalls.We have considered moving the business - not an easy task with the amount of capital employed in plant bread production, but maybe further investment would be wiser placed elsewhere. n



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