Proposals have been unveiled to re-imagine the Coed Darcy development near Neath, with existing residents and businesses invited to help create a new masterplan for a sustainable, ‘15-minute neighbourhood’.

The outline plans were approved more than a decade ago to remediate and redevelop the former thousand-acre BP Llandarcy site just off junction 43 of the M4. The updated project would see up to 2,000 new homes being built, along with extensive green spaces, community facilities and active travel networks.

St. Modwen acquired the site in 2008 and invested in multi-million pound clean-up programme and an initial 291 homes. The developers say the time is right for Coed Darcy to be reinvigorated to meet the current and future needs of the region. Central to a new masterplan is the creation of sustainable and low-carbon homes, with the potential to deliver more than half of the new housing needed across Neath Port Talbot for the next 15 years.

A new neighbourhood for a new time

The pandemic has changed the way people think about their living space, community areas and the importance of work-life balance. The new masterplan has focused on the principles of the ‘15-minute neighbourhood’ with the community able to access many of their daily needs within a short distance of their home. With a focus on health and wellbeing, the density across the site also allows for greater access to green space in general, plus amenities such as a community hub, parks, parklets, play areas and local shops.

The initial proposals were first shared at a meeting with the Community Steering Group of local residents last week (30 June 2021). While the scheme has been reduced in scale, developer St. Modwen says its vision for Coed Darcy remains “just as ambitious, just as innovative but more sustainable, deliverable and aspires to be an exemplar for Wales.”

“Thousands of hours and millions of pounds have been invested so far in the regeneration of Coed Darcy, highlighting our commitment to this unique legacy project,” said Rob Williams, managing director of St. Modwen Major Projects.

“The project has not been without its challenges but we are determined to deliver on our promises of a sustainable and innovative new neighbourhood for Neath. This reimagined Coed Darcy may be smaller but it will be a greener, more accessible and deliverable scheme.

This reimagined Coed Darcy may be smaller but it will be a greener, more accessible and deliverable scheme.

“An initial masterplan was unveiled to residents following engagement and dialogue with the local authority, Welsh Government and our technical partners. We are all working hard to create something very special. We look forward to hearing the views of the community and to seeing how they can help us develop our proposals to meet their needs and aspirations.”

Sustainable spaces and community engagement

The Steering Group was briefed that the housing would be centred on the northern part of the site, with the south becoming the focus of the project’s Biodiversity and Sustainable Environments strategies. Plans to create protected pedestrian and cycle routes were revealed, as was the commitment to reserve land for a potential new metro station to be delivered by Welsh Government, which would link Coed Darcy to the Swansea Bay Metro Network.

Plans for a school are being developed with the local authority that could bring forward either a two-form entry Welsh-medium primary or possibly a ‘Through School’, serving children from nursery through to their GCSEs.

A smaller development will reduce the need for roadbuilding, so plans for a southern access road have changed, with a new focus on green travel across the site. Community facilities such as a hub and co-working space are being considered, and the steering group will help decide which shops and services the neighbourhood would require.

The proposal would see a mix of housing, including open market ‘for sale’ homes, retirement homes, affordable and social rent, plus a range of purchase options such as shared ownership, rent-to-own and the Welsh Government’s Help to Buy scheme.

Residents and local stakeholders will be invited to comment and help shape the future of Coed Darcy at informal consultation and co-design workshops that will take place this summer. That will be followed by a formal Pre-Application Consultation process ahead of the submission of the new masterplan to the local authority, as part of a new application for outline planning permission.