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'Slum of the future' fear for Bay
By Mark Hannaby
BBC News



Cardiff Bay could become a "slum of the future" because of overdevelopment a leading academic has warned.

The building of large numbers of flats in the area with poor planning of vital amenities was to blame, said Urban Design Professor John Punter.

Labour AM for Cardiff South and Penarth Lorraine Barrett added there was lack of community in the area which could lead to a "ghost town feel".

Cardiff Council is due to give its response later.

Prof Punter from Cardiff University told the BBC's Politics Show: "There are an enormous number of apartments in the Bay at the moment which are unlet and unoccupied.

"We know we've been building something like 1,250 apartments a year. I would suggest that probably one third to one half of those are unoccupied.

"I think some of them could be the slums of the future, especially the ones which are more remote, more poorly designed."



Thousands of flats have been built in the area in recent years

He said the empty properties worked against a sense of community and added that amenities vital to any built up area had not been properly planned with people having to commute to access services.

He also criticised that much of the accommodation was not affordable housing and was not ideal to families, despite 4,500 families in Cardiff being on housing waiting lists.

Lorraine Barrett AM agreed with his findings.

She said: "I've got real concerns about no community being built up over the years and I think that can bring with it that sort of ghost town sort of feel."

It is feared the value and condition of the unoccupied flats will decline and the absence of amenities and sense of community will lead to the area becoming a place where social problems do proliferate.


There are worries flats will remain empty

Ms Barrett said: "I'm concerned that when you've got empty properties, the landlords may well just rent them out to a wide range of people who may not be suited to that type of living.

"I think we could be storing up some social problems for the future."

Cardiff Bay has seen massive investment over the last decade with the area being transformed from an industrial docklands landscape into a cosmopolitan tourist area with numerous bars and restaurants.

The Welsh assembly building and Wales Millennium Centre have recently opened in the area and the International Sports Village which is under construction.

Along with it, thousands of apartments have been built.

But in recent months, falling property values in the area have become problematic with some reporting difficulty in selling or sustaining huge losses.

But some developers remain confident that, once current economic gloom lifts, Cardiff Bay will grow and prosper.

Chris Hamilton is managing director of the Bay Pointe development, a plan to build Wales' tallest development in Cardiff Bay's Sports Village.

Mr Hamilton said: "I think Cardiff Bay was a blot on the landscape in the past.

"It is certainly not going to be in the future."
 

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With the clammer by development Companies to make their quick buck and big bucks it is too in buying up and building on land for private buyers, how about a scheme whereby the council make them pay so much into a fund that will go towards building affordable/rentable housing to replace the stock that's unfit or being demolished. A proviso in their planning application that this is the only way it will be accepted.

I work in Shipping and when we pay Customs clearance fees and port terminal handling down at Felixstowe, built into that these days is a Felixstowe port infrastructure charge so in effect we are helping fund their future development.

Now, I know they are a private Company and of course LCC isn't but it's just a thought and would have to be set at a rate so as not to drive private investment away, but how much of it is long term investment anyway as i'm on about those who buy, build, sell then rake it in leaving no long term benefit to the city. It's a way of quickening up the coffers for council housing as they seem to struggle building new developments.
 

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The building of large numbers of flats in the area with poor planning of vital amenities was to blame
I think Liverpool will be OK in this respect. With reference to the Old Hall Street/Princes Dock area where most of the new apartments in the city have appeared, I think, although there is still work to do be done, there are or will be enough amenities to support the local population. For example for basic necessities, there is a Tesco planned for Old Hall Street, for leisure there are bars and restaurants within easy walking distance, and the leisure facilities at Liverpool One are not much further. There is also good access to local transport for access to jobs (if not in the city centre) or schools. I think in this respect the bulk of Liverpool's apartments are well served for vital amenities.

there was lack of community in the area which could lead to a "ghost town feel".
There can be a complete lack of community in a normal residential street where neighbours never speak to each other. I don't think this is a problem just inherent to apartment developments.

"We know we've been building something like 1,250 apartments a year. I would suggest that probably one third to one half of those are unoccupied.
I believe Liverpool's apartment vacancy figure was last reported to be 15% - clearly far below the figure suggested for Cardiff. As such, I think perhaps they have more to be concerned about than we do.

He also criticised that much of the accommodation was not affordable housing and was not ideal to families, despite 4,500 families in Cardiff being on housing waiting lists.
Although affordability is another issue, our council has been actively seeking to reduce the number of one bed apartments in new apartments and through the planning process has actually encouraged developers to include more two and three bed apartments, to make them more appealing to the family market.

Overall, although the credit crunch will affect the rate at which apartments sell, and the rate at which they are built, I think Liverpool will perhaps weather the storm better than some other cities.
 
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