Councillors in Tenby have stated that the Brynhir housing scheme will be the most important development the town has seen in some time, and finally present an opportunity for much needed accommodation for local people.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority approved outline planning permission for housing on the Brynhir site last year, with the application submitted by PCC set to see the construction of 144 new homes, with the majority of the site set to provide social housing for the community.

However, the planned development has not been without its controversies, with members of the ‘Save Brynhir Greenspace and Wildlife’ group (now renamed Tenby Green Space Preservation Society) campaigning against the scheme since plans to develop the land were announced.

Members of Tenby town council held a meeting with representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council this month to discuss updates on the future plans of the housing development.

PCC’s Cabinet Member for Housing Clr. Michelle Bateman and Chief Housing Officer Gaynor Toft were both in attendance, along with the authority’s structural engineer Chris Pratt.

Clr. Bateman said that the meeting would act as a good starting point for discussions, and as the development progressed, engagement would increase further.

She told councillors that she had not visited the Brynhir site yet but was looking forward to standing in the field and seeing the land for herself.

She felt that engagement with communities was key, and as Brynhir was such a big development for the town, local input was key.

Clr. Bateman said that residents should be involved in shaping the development, and that there would be lots of opportunity for engagements with all once the pace on the housing scheme was picked up and the country moved out of the Covid-19 situation.

Mr. Pratt told councillors that he had been involved with the project for a couple of years and it had progressed on to the planning stage last summer.

To date, he said that there had been a lot of work done and a lot of data gathering of ecological interest, including - the identification of 2 SIS, bat corridors, meteorological surveys, mammals, reptiles, trees and other fauna.

There had been limited site investigation, but soil has been tested for soakaways but information was still being gathered about this site.

Mr. Pratt said that an external design team would shortly be appointed to develop the site and then PCC would be in a position to submit planning applications.

Original thoughts had been to build a unique Pembrokeshire standard house type across all PCC’s developments but with the need to follow Welsh Government’s zero carbon agenda they needed to look at more sustainable forms, for example terrace-type houses presented better opportunities to achieve low carbon standards.

Mr. Pratt said that he had been present when Tenby councillors Clr. Mike Evans, Clr. Laurence Blackhall and the town clerk had met with previous Cabinet Member for Housing with Clr Mrs. Pat Davies, and there had been some concern expressed then over negative publicity about the development and the common perception that the ‘affordable homes’ element would be cheap houses bought up for second homes and holiday let by people outside of the county.

There are 102 affordable homes proposed for Brynhir which will be council owned and council rented along with some open market homes. There was also an opportunity for a number of ‘shared ownership’.

PCC were looking at MMC (modular methods of construction) for the site as there would be less material waste, and they are safer to build and more energy efficient. There will be opportunities to openly engage with the town council and the wider community going forward.

Referring to the ‘Save our Open Space’ organisation, Mr. Pratt said that PCC were not looking at damaging but of actually enhancing biodiversity links.

They were not looking to use Sperricomb Lane for access but would protect it by using it as a side corridor to a purpose-built access road and the field next to it would be protected. There were external perimeter footpaths, access paths to the cycleway, provisions for a multi-use games area and informal play areas, and this would be a community creation and not a sprawling metropolis.

Mr. Pratt said that these would be ‘quality houses’ and that outlay would be dearer in the build phase due to the robustness and quality of the products used, but these would be cheaper to maintain in the longer term. PCC were not in this to make money, he said, but to build a cohesive community for the future.

Clr. Trevor Hallett queried the boundary of the 5 metre ‘ecology zone’ and asked what protection the hedge adjacent to Tenby New Cemetery would be given as it was outside the green wedge.

Mr. Pratt believed that an agreement with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority PCNPA was for a 10 metre ‘buffer’ but he would look closer and pass this concern on to the designers.

Clr. Mrs. Christine Brown, thanked Mr. Pratt saying that she was really pleased to hear that these properties would be good quality and well thought out. She said that unfortunately, some local people had an idea that there would be houses going up everywhere.

Clr. Mike Evans picked up on Mr Pratt’s use of the words ‘affordable housing’ and said that he preferred the term ‘social housing’. He said that a month before the Hafalnod housing development behind Tenby’s Knowling Mead went online, people were still not putting their names down as they thought it was ‘affordable housing’ and that it wasn’t until Ateb and the town council made it clear that these properties were for rent that this changed.

Clr. Evans said that he could not understand why, despite his efforts to change this misnomer, social housing like this was still being referred to as ‘affordable’.

He believed that what had been designed to go forward so far was an ‘amazing job’ and that Tenby’s environment was being put first and PCC were missing a trick in not communicating that to the community.

“After this meeting Clr. Hallett will be able to speak to 100 people a day and explain that the ecology will be protected,” said Clr. Evans.

He continued saying that his family have farmed this land since 1960 and like Clr. Hallett he knows it like the back of his hand.

“PCC are not going to develop the three-acre area behind part of Upper Hill Park. Even though it is prime development land and was always in the LDP, PCC are looking to preserve the ecology of the environment instead,” he remarked.

“Some think they are losing an area to walk their dogs, but what PCC will be doing here is actually giving better access to the land.

“Previously within the administration some felt PCC should let this land go for a development of luxury houses with sea views as it would make more money.

“This is not now the case; this will be council housing that can see the sea.

“Some in Tenby object as they still think it is all about the pounds, shillings and pence and we need to get the true facts out. This will be a wonderful site and place to live,” continued Clr. Evans.

Clr. Mrs. Bateman said that she was aware of the misconceptions and potential negative connotations in terming housing as ‘affordable’ but this was how Welsh Government styled it.

Affordable here meant building council accommodation for social rent, she said, and that this was a long-term investment - not financial - and building houses was just the start. PCC had a social responsibility to create cohesive communities, and this was the start of a long journey and community relationship.

Clr. Matthew Ronowitz asked what sort of timescale was there for this project and as to when the development would move forward.

Mr. Pratt said that initially they were looking at commencing in the financial year 2022/2023, working on a 5-year programme to deliver approximately 30 houses a year although this was not set in stone.

There were still surveys to be carried out but the sooner PCC acted, the better, to deliver a steady flow of new properties throughout the county.

Subject to planning there will be 102 affordable/social homes, 8 shared and 34 open market properties at the Brynhir development.

Part of the allocations policy will be that a first let of the new buildings will be to Tenby people or those with a strong connection to the town as per the existing local lettings policy.

When development is closer to the delivery date PCC will work in conjunction with the local community on this.

PCC will not be reinventing the wheel, said Mr. Pratt, these properties will be offered to those on the list who are already living in Tenby, who have secure employment in Tenby or who support family members within Tenby.

With regard to local connections, can the area be extended say to Penally, St Mary’s Out Liberty or Saunderfoot, asked the Mayor, Clr. Mrs. Sam Skyrme-Blackhall, as one element that they found with the Hafalnod development, were tenants renting in Saundersfoot who were originally from Tenby, but unable to afford or access property they needed in Tenby to move back ‘home’ - were not able to be considered under that specific local lettings policy due to no fault of their own.

Clr. Mrs Bateman felt that the town council needed to have a conversation with PCC if they wanted to see that radius extended, as it could be worked into the policy.

Clr. Evans said that this was not a PCC owned site, it is owned by PCC’s HRA which was a separate entity.

“Brynhir is an unbelievable site that looks over Tenby and it is the community who own it,” he stated.

“All areas mentioned by the Mayor can be seen clearly from this site and ownership of this site is not just north and south Tenby. This is the last strategic development site in Tenby.

“PCNPA are desperate to meet their social housing targets and we have ticked every box so far. Now we should involve Clr. Phil Baker of Saundersfoot and Clr. Jon Preston of Penally to gain further community support.

“Hafalnod has only 28 council houses and Ateb are collating demographics of applicants for us so we can assess local needs, continued Clr. Evans.

“We are aware that there are Tenby people born and bred who have achieved accommodation in Penally or Saundersfoot but would rather live in Tenby.

“The promise from Ateb previously was that Hafalnod would be solely for Tenby residents which indicated that people who live in Saundersfoot would be lower down the pecking order. If we spread our net a little bit wider it will help the path to the development getting community support.”

Clr. Mrs. Bateman told the meeting that there were 162 people currently living in Tenby on the housing register, 31 in gold, 58 in silver and 73 bronze, and believed that these numbers would increase.

Clr. Paul Rapi said that Brynhir was the most important development Tenby had seen for long time, and it was finally an opportunity for accommodation for ‘our people, our businesses and our schools’.

“It would be great if PCC could put it out in black and white that these properties are not being sold for second homes for the rich,” said Clr. Rapi.

“If we could dispel this notion so that residents may understand and appreciate how important this development is to the town.

“Community is the most important thing. It must be made clear to people that these properties are not being sold off immediately after being built,” he continued.

Clr. Blackhall commented that he absolutely agreed with what Clr. Rapi said - this was ‘local housing for local people’ and he was encouraged by the progress, feeling it was a positive step for the whole of South Pembrokeshire.

“This is about community cohesion, of recolonising areas and communities which is critical in terms of supporting people,” said Clr. Blackhall.

The town clerk asked if there was any indication as to when the application would move from outline to full stages, given that it was hoped that the development would commence in the 2022/23 financial year.

Mr. Pratt said that designers had yet to be appointed but members would be kept fully engaged and informed.