A MULTINATIONAL financial services firm says its plans for a business park on a family farm would create thousands of jobs and attract millions in investment.

Cardiff International Business Park would be built on farmland east of Cardiff Airport in the Vale of Glamorgan. Financial services giant Legal and General has described the proposed development as "a key project for Wales".

But the plans have attracted heavy criticism from campaigners and politicians fearing the impact on the environment of “concreting over” a working farm.

Legal and General has said the business park would create 4,375 jobs and attract £525 million investment, boosting the local economy.

Andrew McPhillips, Legal and General’s development director of strategic land and major projects, said: “This is a key project for Wales and we know it is important that we continue to communicate our plans to key stakeholders, the community and future partners.

“Wales must be open for business for those who want to invest and consider investment in its future global economic development. The land has been allocated for planning within the enterprise zone for a number of years.”

As well as building the 45-hectare business park, the plans involve giving 48 hectares of farmland to Vale of Glamorgan council, to massively extend the neighbouring Porthkerry Country Park. A corridor of land along Porthkerry Road would also be kept 'safeguarded', connecting the nearby railway line with Cardiff Airport for a potential new train or tram service there.

READ MORE: Model Farm: protestors urge Welsh Government to halt proposals

Mr McPhillips said: “We have already agreed the transfer of 48 hectares of land to the Vale of Glamorgan Council to form an extension to Porthkerry Country Park, for use by the community with added funding for environmental management.

“This transfer will provide more public access with connection to the Wales Coastal Path, and access on foot from Porthkerry and Rhoose. From an environmental perspective, this transfer goes beyond mitigation and provides significant biodiversity net gain. There would also be 10.3 hectares of green space within the business park.”

The business park would be built on Model Farm, off Port Road, which has been farmed by the Jenkins family for four generations. The say they are “devastated” that they would have to leave the farm, but are hoping to continue their wildflower seed business, Wild Wales Seeds.

READ MORE: Echoes of the past for family evicted from farm after 85 years

Legal and General bought the farm several years ago, and it was earmarked for a major building project in 2017, as part of Vale of Glamorgan council’s local development plan. The site is also in one of eight enterprise zones in Wales, where the Welsh Government is focusing economic development and encouraging businesses to invest.

Last July the Vale council’s planning committee voted to grant permission for the business park at Model Farm. Campaigners then successfully applied for a judicial review, leading to the permission getting quashed. Now, another planning application has been sent to the council, and a public consultation on the plans is running until February 17.

Then in the next few months, councillors on the planning committee will again be asked to vote on whether to approve permission for the business park. The last vote was split along party lines, with nine councillors voting in favour and eight against. With the upcoming local election in May, the political makeup of the committee could change, potentially affecting the next vote. Planning committee members aren't supposed to take a view on applications before they are considered by the committee.

But in the meantime, Legal and General has released new estimates of how Cardiff International Business Park could boost the local economy. With overall floorspace of the development covering 160,000 square metres, L&G estimate the business park could provide space for 4,375 full-time employees.

Gross value added, which measures local economic output, is expected to be a total of £301 million according to L&G's figures, comprising £232 million when the business park is operational and £69 million during construction. Building the business park is expected to last a decade, creating 104 jobs, according to the financial giant's own estimations.

READ MORE: Demands for farmland protection against foreign companies

However, Maxine Levett, a campaigner with Vale Communities Unite, who launched last year's successful judicial review, said several questions regarding the plans remain unanswered. She added the business park would be “detrimental” to the community and environment, and was unnecessary with several vacant brownfield sites nearby.

She said: “This is a working farm helping feed the community and encouraging biodiversity, when the Vale council has declared a climate emergency. The current land available at the Bro St Athans site shows there isn’t a requirement for this type of development, as there are thousands of square metres of brownfield sites waiting to be scooped up.

“Who will finance the road works to accommodate the impact of potentially 3,000 extra vehicles from this site, on top of additional transport needs from recent residential buildings and the proposed development of Aberthaw power station?

“Bristol Airport has declared they are increasing their passengers to 12 million a year. This will greatly impact companies willing to fly out of Cardiff Airport. And where is the funding coming from to provide a rail link to a planned transport hub?

“We will continue to fight this development as we feel it to be detrimental to the community, environment and unnecessary with Aberthaw, St Athan and other locations near to the M4 corridor better placed to meet employment needs, rather than a working farm.”

Contrary to the views of campaigners and some local politicians, Legal and General has claimed it would "preserve" and "enhance" the environment. Plans include three kilometres of new hedgerows, and planting five acres of scrub and woodland, as well as extending Porthkerry Country Park.

Mr McPhillips said: “Legal and General has been committed to Wales as a progressive investor and substantial employer for many years. This is a project which will increase economic growth and we will continue to pursue the planning viability sensitively with existing stakeholders.

“Creating 4,375 jobs and investment of £525 million must be seen as essential for the future of the Welsh economy, especially next to Cardiff Airport. This investment in business infrastructure by Legal and General enhances the Welsh Government’s current major investment in Cardiff Airport, a strategic gateway to facilitate international connectivity.”

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