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We are delighted that the Duke of Beaufort’s Somerset Trust, the owner of part of Clyne Common, south-west of Swansea, has withdrawn its application for a land swap.
The trustees of the Somerset Trust applied to the Welsh environment minister, via the Planning Inspectorate, to deregister 2.7 hectares on the eastern side of the common in order to build affordable housing there, and to replace this with farm land, two kilometres away on the western border of the common, at Ryeground Farm.
The housing is proposed by Edenstone Homes in partnership with coastal housing, but planning permission has not yet been obtained. Because the development would be on common land, the applicants were required to obtain ministerial consent to deregister the common, and in doing so to provide suitable exchange land.
With many local people we objected to the proposed exchange.
In our objection we argued that Clyne Common is one of the classical Swansea urban commons which are a historical feature of the city and county. The built-up area of Sunnybank and adjoining estates, where it was proposed to deregister the land, abut directly onto the common.
The application sought to deregister a substantial chunk of Clyne Common for development, and replace it with cheap, low quality farm land on the other side of the common, two kilometres distant. This is far from where those in Sunnybank and neighbouring communities, who enjoy this part of the common, live, and indeed at least 500 metres distant from where anyone at all lives.
Moreover, the character of the replacement land would discourage access, and its rectangular protrusion west from the common would in any case render access largely superfluous, because it does not lead anywhere or connect with any highway.
The applicants, despite having access to legal advice, seemed to be ignorant of the right for the public of access on foot and on horseback to the whole common, under section 193 of the Law of Property Act 1925, and therefore that the exchange land must also be suitable for public access, which the society considered it was not.
Says Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers: ‘Swansea needs more affordable housing, but it is wrong to build it on the very sites which make Swansea special. This was a cynical attempt by the landowner to turn a profit from its ownership of Clyne common. We are relieved that the applicants have withdrawn their proposals.’