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Home farm group set to report in the summer

A WORKING group set up to consider the future of Swansea Council's Home Farm depot is seeking a sustainable future for the site that's fit for the 21st century.

HomeFarmYard

The cross-party group was set up last year to look at how the site that's been used as a works yard for 50 years can be transformed for a new era.

Rob Stewart, leader of the council, said: "The council's given the working group a blank piece of paper. We want it to come up with viable ideas that will preserve the grade II listed buildings there while finding a new use for the rest of the site.

"Progress is being made and we're anticipating feedback from the working party by the summer."

Swansea Council's Cabinet agreed to set up the working group after it was considered the site - used for decades as a heavy machinery workshop and storage area - was likely to be declared surplus to the council's needs.

He said: "The council is acting as it continues to review all its depot buildings. Home Farm Depot is a drain on resources, taking money which would be better spent protecting frontline services.

"Anyone who's been to the depot knows it's basically a collection of rundown barns and buildings around tarmac yards and roadways.

"It's not pretty and bears no resemblance to Singleton Park. But the main office and other historic buildings on site deserve to be protected for the benefit of the community in future years. It's the working group's job to come up with alternative options for the council to consider and make a decision about.

"There are no formal or agreed proposals for 42 homes. If the council were only looking at housing as an option then it would be proceeding with a planning application and not setting up a working group. The reality is that the working group includes ward members as well as other community representatives specifically so the council can get as many ideas as possible.

"Every option is on the table. But any idea must be able to pay its own way and benefit all Swansea residents. The council can't commit to spending sums of money it hasn't got."

He added: "Some people have claimed that it's the council's intention to use the depot closure to build on Singleton Park next door.

"That's not true. Building on Singleton Park is a red line and there's no doubt the working group would not support such a thing."

"The purpose of having a working group to look at all options is to ensure we protect and restore the buildings which exist in the compound. If we don't we risk losing a key part of our history forever."

He added: "We would keep tight control of any development and would turn this unattractive, largely unseen location into something of which Swansea people could be proud."

Home Farm dates from the mid-1800s. It's never been part of Singleton Park, although it sits on its edge like Singleton Hospital, Sketty Hall and Bishop Gore Comprehensive School.

Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "Given the council no longer needs it at as a depot, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance its immediate area.

"Singleton Park is an urban public park of outstanding historical interest and it will remain so, not a blade of grass there will be affected by any changes at Home Farm.

"We want the working group to listen to what the community has to say, consider the council's issues and come up with imaginative ideas for the authority to consider.

"We're confident that we'll be able to reach a proposal that promotes and enhances the Home Farm site which will see an end to a rundown set of farm buildings and produce something that protects our heritage."

Frequently asked questions

Home Farm depot proposal - FAQs

 

Here are some FAQs about our proposal to transform the council depot at Home Farm, Sketty, into an accessible area preserved for future generations.

 

Q. Why have you set up a working group?

The Home Farm Depot has been a storage yard and workshop for more than 50 years. It's a collection of rundown buildings and shipping containers around large areas of hardstanding. But also includes a number of buildings of historic interest, including a Grade II listed farmhouse. It is not needed by the council in the long term but it deserves a future that benefits the community and stops it being a drain on council resources.

Q. What has the group been asked to do?

The working group is non-political. It includes councillors and local people with an interest in the future of the area. The working group has been given a clean sheet of paper to come up with potential options for the council to consider which are viable for the future. It's an opportunity to transform the site for future generations and every option will be considered before the council reaches a decision.

Q. Why not simply demolish it all and turn it over to parkland?

A. The former farmhouse at the centre of the depot, currently used as an office, is Grade II listed; it cannot be knocked down. It's one of a number of historic buildings in the compound. We want to find a way to preserve them for the future.

Q. Won't changes increase traffic there?

A. The depot, which is already very busy with frequent HGV movements in and out of the compound, will be closing. Traffic issues would be taken into account as part of the working group's consideration of the options.

Q. Are you simply seeking to sell the site to the highest bidder?

A. No, but potential value will have to be a factor in any decision.  We want a sustainable future that protects the historic buildings on site at no cost to council taxpayers.

Q. Does this mean there'll be encroachment on Singleton Park?

A. No, there won't. It cannot be emphasised enough. We don't expect the working group to come up with proposals to encroach on the park. The depot is not part of Singleton Park. It sits on its edge, like Sketty Hall, Singleton Hospital and Bishop Gore Comprehensive. Not a blade of grass in Singleton Park will be affected by any changes.

Q. Why not restore the site as a community farm or turn it into a part of the Singleton Park landscape?

A. The site has not been a farm since before it was purchased by the local authority many years ago. The site is industrial/brownfield and much of it is laid to concrete hardstanding. Turning it into a community farm would not be financially viable and would mean the opportunity to restore the Grade II listed building would be lost.

Q. Are you allowed to do this? Wasn't the land bequeathed to the community by the Glynn Vivian family?

A. This is not true. The deeds have been checked and the land was purchased from the Glynn Vivian family, not bequeathed by them. There were no conditions attached to the sale at the time. The former County Borough of Swansea bought Home Farm from Glynn Vivian family on August 16, 1920, at a market value. There were no special conditions as to how Home Farm should or could be used. Since then its uses have included a dogs home and a council works depot which is how it operates today. We still have a document that details the 1920 sale and purchase of the land.

Q. What about the views of the public? Don't they count?

A. Yes, such views are really important to us. That's why the working group has been set up. After listening to the views of local people and the wider public, it will make recommendations to the Council. In addition to this, any proposals for change that do come forward will need planning permission, offering people further, formal  opportunities for comment.

Q. How does this instance tie in with how the council manages its assets?

A. We work within our Council Asset Management Plan, more specifically a longstanding action relating to the review of all Council Depot sites. The plan has been in place for a number of years. Its aim is to manage the council's buildings, disposing of any assets no longer needed and would otherwise be a drain on resources which could be used for frontline services instead.

Q. Isn't Home Farm part of Singleton Park?

A. No. The boundary of Home Farm - currently comprising stone walls and high palisade security metal fencing - is a formal boundary with the park.

Q. Are there plans to build 42 homes on the site?

"There are no formal or agreed proposals for 42 homes. If the council were only looking at housing as an option then it would be proceeding with a planning application and not setting up a working group. The council has given the working party a blank sheet of paper to work from specifically because it's been asked to consider the pros and cons of all potential options while seeking views from local people and the wider public. The community is being involved at the beginning of a process, not the end. No decisions will be made on the future of the depot before the council has considered the working group's findings and recommendations.

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