Rhys grew up in Bro Morgannwg and recently returned after living away. Now, he's out to explore parts of his hometown he's rarely ventured.
A Growing Community with a Short History
Home to Cardiff International Airport and the most southerly point on mainland Wales, Rhoose was a village built around three large farms that have existed for over 300 years. The village has grown substantially in the last century and is now the fastest growing village in the Vale of Glamorgan. In Rhoose Point, cement works and quarries have been replaced by housing and wildlife as the area has had a resurgence since the 1990’s. Rhoose is far enough outside Barry and Cardiff to feel rural, especially with its mediocre transport links, but not too far to feel trapped. Some would say it’s the perfect inbetween. Others would argue ‘there’s not much there’.
When I think about Rhoose in 10 years time, I see a much busier village than it is now. I moved to Aberystwyth in 2015 and, after returning in the new year, a lot had changed in that short period. Firstly, social media has brought people in the area together with Facebook community pages. A space for the communities to come together to promote local businesses and support each other, the online groups are a positive and convenient way for the different parts of the village to act as one.
Secondly, there are new developments at every turn. In Rhoose Point, 90 new homes were erected south of the railway line, accompanied with the biggest children’s park and play area in Rhoose Point. The new Golwg y Môr development has 347 new homes with over 250 already occupied. The new spaces are fantastic for the community and the small number of local businesses, however I believe a more sustainable way of living could have been considered with the majority of the new houses not using sustainable energy, such as solar panels.
Finally, coastal erosion continues to be a lingering problem. Despite no major issues since 2011, where a landslide left 15 caravans in nearby Porthkerry Caravan Park teetering over the edge of the cliffs, it becomes more likely to happen once again as each unpredictable season goes by.
Where Cows Onced Grazed, Children are Soon to be Raised
As you drive into Rhoose Point surrounded by farmland and views of the Bristol Channel ahead of you, you can’t help but wonder what will occupy these fields by 2030. 10 years ago, cows would graze in the fields and the area certainly felt more like a rural village surrounded by active farmlands. Locals have expected these fields to be overrun with diggers and new street signs for a decade, therefore despite no set plans, when the inevitable expansion happens, I hope it will be a lot different than the developments we’ve seen over the last 5 years.
With nearby Cardiff International Airport of Wales installing a brand new Solar PV farm on the airport site, with over a quarter of the power used at the airport to be supplied from these, it would be fantastic to see the current village fields turned into solar farms within the next decade. At the minimum the new expansion should see all new houses fitted with solar panels.
When I picture a sustainable community my mind immediately jumps to energy efficiency, renewable energy and waste management, a community built on environmental sustainability. However, it’s important to recognize that there’s so much more that needs to be addressed. Many coastal villages across Wales have an abundance of holiday homes that some news outlets have recently argued are turning local communities into “ghost towns” for the majority of the year. We are lucky that two caravan parks on either side of the village attract visitors rather than holiday lets. These help stimulate the local economy and aid assist in the local businesses thriving. As these sites continue to expand over the next decade, I imagine so will the businesses that benefit from them. Perhaps in 10 years time we will see more than the current 3 bars in the area, and even have a more diverse range of shops.
The need for a socially equal and diverse community with economic sustainability is also vital. The Vale of Glamorgan 2001 census showed that only 2.2% of the county’s population was Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and by 2011, this number had increased to 3.3%.1 Whilst it’s important to remember this figure has very likely increased again over the last decade, you are still quite unlikely to see people from the BAME community as you wander through Rhoose Point.
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The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Equality and Diversity Scheme, “committed to bringing about improvement in employment opportunities, service delivery, and policy outcomes that address equality and diversity”2 is a fantastic start at recognising the need to diversify and bring communities from different backgrounds together.
The new draft Strategic Equality Plan 2020-2024 is another step forward in recognising the need for equality and diversity by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. By 2030, it would be brilliant to see a diverse community with families of different backgrounds, religions and history living side-by-side where the farmlands used to be.
Coastal Erosion and Frequent Storms
Coastal erosion is at the forefront of many people’s minds in Rhoose Point. Almost 10 years since a 40ft of rock gave way and 15 caravans were almost swept out at sea, the Heritage Coastal Path is forced to be moved more inland each year as cliff faces continue to fall to the force of the sea. This has been recognised by housing developments who ensure “that the new developments to the east keeps back from the cliff edge…” and “areas within Rhoose proposed for development in due course should not be included within the area”.3
Climate change, unpredictable (and more frequent) storms, and rising sea levels, despite not being an obvious problem to many in the area, should be a cause for concern. In 10 years time, I fear that our quiet and serene coastal path along with the adjacent fields, will inevitably end up side by side with the village.
Much of Rhoose Point is over 130ft above sea level, and those houses equal to sea level are surrounded by sea walls and therefore coastal erosion may not seem like a big deal. I hope that in 10 years time it won’t be. A community has been built here following the closure of the quarries and asbestos works, and it would be devastating to see the families at the bottom of the Point being forced to move due to rising sea levels and flooding.
3.5 Hectares of Rewilding
Porthkerry Country Park on the edge of Rhoose is going through drastic changes. You may be familiar with photos of the enormous 19th century viaduct that towers above the old golf course at Porthkerry. This 12 hole course was recently closed due to continuous flooding and is now at the beginning of a huge rewilding project. Brand new boardwalks made out of old recycled plastics have been erected, similar to those at nearby Cosmeston Lakes.
The plan to reintroduce species that once thrived here whilst creating new meadow and pond habitats will mean Porthkerry Country Park will have a whole new purpose in 10 years time. It will be an area for educating children about the importance of all aspects of wildlife, biodiversity and the enhancement of ecosystem resilience.
Rhoose is a village full of promise but also possible disaster. If things do not change quickly then we may be looking at a whole section of the village being forced out due to rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
On the other hand, nature is beginning to thrive at the quarry, along the coastal path and in nearby Porthkerry. As we look onto the next decade, if the council’s plans for diversity continue on the same path, we could see a more sustainable and diverse community that can live side-by-side with nature.
1. The Vale of Glamorgan Council., Draft Strategic Equality plan 2020-2024., Equality Data., pp. 8., 2020.
2. The Vale of Glamorgan Council., Equality and Diversity Scheme., 3.9 Equality Outcomes., pp. 12., 2016.
3. The Vale of Glamorgan Council., Vale of Glamorgan LDP Coastal Study., Local Development Plan., pp. 22., 2008.
© 2020 Rhys Russell