'My bedroom window looks right into portable homes being built metres away'

-Credit: (Image: John Myers)
-Credit: (Image: John Myers)


Residents objecting to a portable home site on their doorsteps claim their local council acted unlawfully in using special powers to develop it. Vale of Glamorgan Council used what is known as permitted development rights in January 2023 to allow the construction of 90 temporary portable homes on the site of the former Eagleswell Primary School in Llantwit Major without needing planning permission.

Residents living nearby say the development has taken a toll on their quality of life and mental health, with one woman calling the site a "monstrosity" and saying the planning saga ruined the last year she spent with her husband before he died.

Vale of Glamorgan Council said the site of the former primary school, which closed in 2015, is allocated for housing in the local development plan (LDP) and that it is intended for Ukrainian refugees. However, a local action group opposed to the site argues that the number of units being built exceeds what is allocated in the LDP (72) and claim they have been pushed through to plug a gap in the council's housing stock.

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"I have had a couple of days in hospital with asthma over it," said Mary Morgan, whose garden backs right on to the site and is separated by a wooden fence. "I lost my husband on February 6 of this year and really and truthfully, it ruined our last year of our lives together."

Mary said that the property is so close to the portable home next door that she can see into it from her bedroom window. The 74-year-old said: "They are so near, we have got no privacy... what can I say? It is an eyesore, it is a monstrosity. I would love to sell, you can't sell. It has undervalued our properties."

Aerial photographs show the portable homes on land where Eagleswell Primary School once stood in Llantwit Major -Credit:John Myers
Aerial photographs show the portable homes on land where Eagleswell Primary School once stood in Llantwit Major -Credit:John Myers
The view from some residents' windows now -Credit:John Myers
The view from some residents' windows now -Credit:John Myers

Permitted development rights for the site are in place for one year from the start of construction work, which was in June 2023. A planning application for the site is expected to be considered by the council's planning committee in June.

The council said its planning officers are currently considering the application and will take into account representations received by neighbours. Residents opposing the development set up an action group, Llantwit Major Residents Action Group, and raised thousands of pounds in three and a half days to secure legal support. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

Stephen said his property is within 10m of the portable homes -Credit:Ted Peskett
Stephen said his property is within 10m of the portable homes -Credit:Ted Peskett
People's views from their bedroom windows have changed dramatically -Credit:John Myers
People's views from their bedroom windows have changed dramatically -Credit:John Myers

Stephen McGranaghan, who set up the CrowdJustice page that raised more than £7,300, said his property is within 10m of the portable homes. Observing the nearest unit to his house from a bedroom window, Stephen said: "It's like a shed, this one. They don't even blend in. This site is in the middle of a complete residential area. All of the roofs are pitched. This site is so out of keeping and stands out so much."

A barrister from law firm 3 Paper Buildings (3PB) acting on behalf of the residents' action group argued that permitted development rights, as used by the council in this situation, should only be used to carry out a specified development in an emergency which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the UK.

Glyn and Joselyn Cheshire fear the pressure on local services if people start moving into the portable homes -Credit:Copyright Unknown
Glyn and Joselyn Cheshire fear the pressure on local services if people start moving into the portable homes -Credit:Copyright Unknown
It's a large development -Credit:John Myers
It's a large development -Credit:John Myers

In a planning statement for the scheme published on the council's website in November 2023, it states the main aim of the scheme "has been to ensure efficient delivery of homes to assists in dealing with housing need in the city". In the official objection made on behalf of the action group, the barrister said that in their view works on the site should cease immediately until planning permission is granted. "Every day I get up and I open the windows and I see this site," added Stephen, 68. "It hasn't been thought through properly. To me it is an exorbitant cost.

"If it was temporary for an emergency in the Ukraine, why didn't they take a caravan park over for two years and house them in there? Why spend this money when they could have put housing stock into the community and it could have blended in.

"There is no green space in there... there are no play areas, they have chopped trees down... it is so badly designed and so badly managed with the local community." Stephen added that he and the action group "feel for the Ukrainians" and said their objection isn't about those who are fleeing the war in their country. On his thoughts about the council's plans, he said: "It is about housing stock. It is back door way, and it is not cheap."

The view at street level -Credit:John Myers
The view at street level -Credit:John Myers

Other residents in the area said they have no issue with the idea of housing being built on the old primary school site. For them, it is the type of housing that has been installed and the fact that they have had little say in the matter, with the development having been pushed through using permitted development rights. Joselyn Cheshire, 65, said: "I don't think any of us would have minded a normal housing estate going up.

"To look out of [Stephen's] window now, it is just absolutely ridiculous. No matter how beautiful his house is, I would never buy it if I was a new person coming in because everywhere I look, I can see nothing."

Joselyn's husband, Glyn Cheshire, said: "We live here, we have brought our families up here and our views and concerns have just been dismissed by the arrogance of the Vale of Glamorgan Council." The impact on services is also a concern of residents, who say things like surgeries are already over stretched in Llantwit Major. Although the former Eagleswell School site is allocated for housing, residents have in the past called for it to be used for a new health centre.

Dai Morris called the situation a "carbuncle". -Credit:Ted Peskett
Dai Morris called the situation a "carbuncle". -Credit:Ted Peskett

Glyn, 64, said: "We have discussed the medical provision and school provision and every time it is 'the provision is there'. At this moment in time we changed our medical centre because they couldn't provide us with any of the services that we wanted and we went through to someone new who could."

John Moisan of Eagleswell Road said it took him more than a month to get a doctor's appointment. John, 75, said: "You can't get a dentist appointment, it is difficult to get a doctor's appointment.

"I went recently, I had a prescription and I said 'you have given me the wrong prescription'. [They said] 'I can't change it but I will book you in to see a doctor'... [it took] five weeks because I wanted to change my prescription."

Another resident, Dai Morris, said he was shocked when he first realised the site would be used for portable homes and called it a "carbuncle". Dai, 67, said: "The local town councillors have been pushing for a health centre and all other things and then it was being sold for residential housing. I think people would have accepted that. I would have accepted that. What we have ended up with is not in keeping."

Council documents say the housing will be used for five years -Credit:John Myers
Council documents say the housing will be used for five years -Credit:John Myers

On potential pressure on services, he added: "We kept being told that the schools could take the children and that the doctors could take the patients, but... getting an appointment at the doctors now is impossible before you start introducing people with extra needs as well."

The planning statement for the site states that the intention is for the units to be temporary for five years. It also states that the visual effects of the site will be temporary and that the units can be easily removed and re-used.

The introduction of the planning statement reads: "The proposals are currently being delivered under permitted development rights... which permits local authorities in Wales to carry out certain development in an emergency..."

It adds: "The Order grants permitted development rights to a local authority on land owned, leased, occupied or maintained by it for the purposes of:

  • Preventing an emergency

  • Reducing, controlling or mitigating the effects of an emergency, or

  • Taking other action in connection with an emergency

"For the purposes of the order, a 'public health emergency' includes... loss of human life. The proposals will help to support Ukrainian refugees. The legislation adheres that planning permission must be obtained within 12 months of the date of construction commencement."

A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: "This site is allocated for residential housing under the Council’s Local Development Plan. In assessing it for this purpose, evidence was considered relating to the sustainability of local services. The site has, as a consequence been deemed to be appropriate for residential purposes.

"Many of the children who will move to the site are already attending school in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is likely many will choose to stay in their current school. There are school places currently available in the Llantwit area which are likely to be more than enough for those families moving into the Vale.

"It is acknowledged that there are concerns within Llantwit Major about the level of local services, particularly health facilities, and in this regard further conversations on managing the impact of the development will continue when details of the exact requirements for education and other provision will become clear."