In case you missed it, Cardiff Council has had the go-ahead for a massive new development plan, which will include around 41,400 new homes in a number of locations around Cardiff.
Some of these homes have already been built, but there are 5,000 homes planned for the pretty, green area between Radyr and St Fagans; 4,500 homes between Pontprennau and Lisvane; 2,000 homes between Creigiau and the M4; 1,300 homes east of Pontprennau; 500 at the old gas works next to Ikea and some sort of industrial/commercial estate south of St Mellons Business Park.
Now, we do have a few problems with all this, not least the likelihood that most of these homes will be bought by landlords from over the border and rented back to us at the very limit of what we can afford, but also because many of them will be built on what little countryside we have within Cardiff’s boundaries. The section on “green belt” has been swapped for one talking about a “green wedge”. There’s also the issue of another 41,400+ cars trying to get around the city, but we’ll get onto that in a second.
We don’t doubt the need for new homes, but how many of these will be owned but the people living in them? Anyway, that’s an argument for a different website. Let’s talk transport.
If the status quo was maintained (no, we’re not talking Francis Rossi & co), we could realistically see another 41,000+ cars take to the streets of Cardiff, based on one per household. However, this could be a conservative estimate if we include both parents and at least one of their offspring with a car of their own.
These developments would pour traffic down Llantrisant Road, which already bottlenecks at the mini roundabout near Llandaff Cathedral. It’ll also pour down Caerphilly Road to the Gabalfa flyover and the A48 to Newport Road and Gabalfa heading west.
So, the status quo cannot be maintained and something serious is going to have to change. Yes, the Metro project is underway and will go some way to alleviate some of the traffic problems, so long as people actually use it.
Perhaps the most obvious solution is through active travel. Fortunately, the council appears to be aware of the infrastructure challenges and, at least on paper seems committed to aiming for a 50:50 split between cars and sustainable forms of transport.
One document that is worth skimming through is the Report on the examination into the Cardiff Local Development Plan 2006-2026. Be warned, it’s a 9MB document, but section 7, which starts on page 30 is where we’ll focus our attention.
It talks about “significant new infrastructure” as well as improvements to existing infrastructure. It also claims that there has been a significant increase in the use of sustainable travel to work over the last 10 years, including rail and cycling. Comfortingly, they do plan to help that along…
The Council also plans a range of measures to influence and change travel behaviour such as improvements to walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure, route improvements, transport hubs, parking controls and pricing policies.
Bearing in mind we are now in a post-Active Travel Act world, that infrastructure has to be up to the the standards set by Welsh Government’s design guidance, or it cannot be considered an active travel route.
Furthermore, cycle networks and pedestrian links have been planned which would be an integral feature of the new communities and would make walking and cycling practical choices for daily trips. Off-site connections would improve the scope for connecting with upgraded cycle routes beyond the sites, including to the Taff Trail and City Centre. Where relevant, these details have been included as ‘Essential’ or Category 1 infrastructure in the proposed new policies KP2 (A) to (H).
So, they have plans to mitigate the potential for an overwhelming amount of traffic coming from these new developments, but even if they are effective, they will have an impact on some of the well-ridden roads we have, including Croft-y-Genau Road and Wentloog Road.
Potential Active Travel Routes
So, if you found yourself living in one of these new sites, how would you get to work? It’s time to get the map out & have a look.
Based in the centre of town to the east of the Taff, site A should be well connected to any active travel network. The existing Taff Trail runs along the other side of the river and Cardiff Central also sits within it. Next…
Site B is the old gas works that sits right next to Ikea, but also a former landfill site. This is well connected to the Ely trail, Bay trail and Taff Trail as they exist today. We have no particular concerns about this one…
Site C sits on a beautiful stretch of land north of St Fagans. It’s also a huge site that is served mostly by Llantrisant Road. However, we will likely see rat-runners heading through Pentrebane, Fairwater and also heading towards Cardiff down the A4232.
On a bike, NCN42 would be the most direct link to the centre of Cardiff joining up with Route 6. However, having ridden NCN42 recently, it’s a main road like any other, with little or no signs of cycle infrastructure. Route 6 isn’t much different, so there’s plenty of work for the council to do here.
Site D & E
Sat just north of the M4 between junction 33 and 34, your easiest route into Cardiff on a bike from here will be Llantrisant Road once again, or perhaps through Pentyrch & a speedy descent down Heol Goch. However, it is likely that motorists will have the same idea.
Combined with traffic from site C, on a road that already bottlenecks at Llandaff Cathedral, getting into work from these sites could be a terrifying prospect if people insist on driving.
We have to hope that the public transport & active travel infrastructure Cardiff Council has planned is robust. It’s only about 8 miles from here though.
Site F occupies the farm land between Lisvane and Pontprennau. As we’ve discussed in our East West Challenge, getting from Pontprennau to Cardiff on a bike is not an easy prospect. However, the site meets with the north side of the Lisvane & Llanishen reservoirs, so perhaps a route through there to the bottom of Rhyd-y-Penau Road could be found?
The planned Enfys route 2, at least on paper, takes you to the top of Rhyd-y-Penau Road, so it could be done. Curiously, the council has published a “master plan” for this site, which appears to show a branching network of active travel routes spreading from just north of Cardiff Golf Club.
Site G is just south of M4 junction 30. There’s no train line around here, but mercifully there is/will be a Park & Ride nearby. However, if you are on a bike, heading down Bridge Road, through Old St Mellons and down to the old A48 may be your best bet.
If they ever get started on Enfys Route 30, you could use that, but like much of the Enfys Network, it only exists on paper right now.
Site H sits to the east of Trowbridge & is near the beautiful Wentloog Avenue. Currently, aside from a few isolated light industrial units there’s not a great deal around here. However, the Wentloog Avenue approach to the bottom of Newport Road, or the old A48 (B4487) and on into Cardiff would be the most obvious route into town by bike.
Here’s hoping the council has something a little better lined up for this site though. Whilst I have no problem with these roads, they’re going to unnerve the less experienced.
Looking at a map and identifying potential routes into Cardiff on roads that are currently not too bad to cycle on, is easy. However, add another 41,000 homes into the mix, housing people whom will mostly need to get into the centre of Cardiff around the same time every day and we may have a very different story.
Asking people to leave their cars at home and suggesting they use the bus, the train or the bike is unlikely to be enough. You can try pricing people out of Cardiff by increasing the parking costs, but that is only really going to disadvantage the poorest in our communities.
It’s probably time for the council to start considering congestion charging again. However, it could be phased in, initially hitting those in the highest CO2 bands plus all diesels first. What is certain is that Cardiff Council can no longer fanny about with the cycling infrastructure.
Whatever Active Travel route they decide to implement, it needs to be good; ideally it needs to be fast and it needs to be maintained throughout the year, not just the summer months.