Plans approved for controversial “Talybont Gate” halls of residence

A new Halls of residence is set to be built on the Talybont site.

Anna Hickman

The controversial proposal for a student residence, Talybont Gate, has finally been approved by the Welsh Government’s Planning Inspectorate, after initially being rejected by city councillors earlier this year.

The six-story accommodation, which will be situated at the top of the Talybont student complex in an overspill car park, will provide 178 en suite rooms for new Cardiff University students and is due for completion in 2013.

The proposal encountered strong resistance by local residents, who claimed that the building would reduce parking in a congested part of Cardiff, as well as contribute to the overdevelopment of an area which already has a high concentration of students.

A campaign led by Lib Dem councillors Gareth Holden and Ed Bridges on behalf of the local community drew attention to the ‘overbearing’ impact of the six-story block and led to the proposal being rejected.

However, planning inspector Andrew Poulter overturned the decision in May, arguing that the car park is a ‘little-used’ overspill and there would be ‘no significant loss of existing parking’. He also claimed the site has ‘excellent’ pedestrian, cycle and transport links for students and would not lead to ‘unacceptable visual, amenity or highway impacts.’

Cllr Holden expressed, ‘this is very disappointing for local residents…the parking pressure it will create is unacceptable. It’s a shocking decision.’

In response to the concerns addressed by Cllr Holden and Cllr Bridges, the University outlined that the ‘parking provision on the site has been designed in accordance with Cardiff Council’s sustainable transport agenda, encouraging the use of more sustainable transport, particularly cycling rather than cars.’

There are also concerns that the construction of the building, which will be very close to Talybont North, is likely to impact on students trying to study in their rooms over the course of the year.

A Cardiff University spokesperson said, ‘the construction process will be managed and overseen by Campus Services Division and the Estates Division in liaison with the appointed contractor, to ensure the minimum disruption to students living at Talybont North.’

When asked why the decision had been made to build new accommodation, as opposed to improving older accommodation such as Talybont North, the spokesperson said the ‘additional rooms are being built at Talybont in order to meet demand, and to ensure the continued supply of good quality, purpose-built student accommodation.  For all halls, we have a rolling programme of planned maintenance in order to maintain the standard of accommodation as high as we can, and for instance, two houses are being refurbished on Talybont North this year.’

Another concern is that there has not been sufficient student involvement in the decision, as the plans were submitted in the summer and the deadline for comments ended halfway through freshers’ week last year. This meant that Talybont tenants had a very short period in which to express any concerns with the proposal.

Yet Cardiff University claims it is pleased that the ‘high-quality’ development could go ahead. A spokesperson for the University said, ‘Talybont Gate will offer modern, sustainable accommodation, complete with the latest IT facilities. The University is an active member of the community and is in continual discussion with councillors and other representatives about local issues.’

The building, estimated to cost £6.5 million, is scheduled for completion in 2013, ready for the new intake of students in 2014.