Residents on Free Street in Brecon have raised their concerns at the proposed development of the former Roy Hatton Garage, with fears that the proposed building is 'overbearing', and could have a drastic effect on grade II listed homes.

Asbri Planning Ltd. has been commissioned by Wales and West Housing Association to undertake pre-application consultation of the proposed planning application for the demolition of the existing buildings at the former Roy Hatton Car Sales site in Free Street, Brecon, and to provide extra-care accommodation, association communal facilities and external works.

The works would include the demolition of the existing buildings on the site of the former Roy Hatton Garage, with 66 flats proposed.

Those living in Free Street, Little Free Street, and The Watton are concerned over the 'sheer scale' of the proposed development and the effects it might have on the surrounding area. Neighbours have gathered together to voice their apprehension, which also includes the impact on wildlife and light levels. They believe that while the residents in the area are already aware of the proposed Wales and West / Asbri apartments and day centre development at the rear of Free Street, many others aren't aware.

Jacqueline Goold, who spearheads the group, has stressed that they have no problem with the development of the site, but that the building itself needs questioning. She told The Brecon and Radnor Express: "The concern is about the extreme massing and overbearing scale of the grey brick building being over 50m wide and 75m long. It's 10.485m high to the 3-storey flat roof, 13.275m to the ridge, and 13.5m to the four-storey flat roof and 16.23m to the 4 storey ridge. On this scale, it will be the most intrusive new build in the town conservation area since the Ship Street Library in 1969 and the legacy we leave for future generations for which they may well curse our shortsightedness."

The worry is that the currently proposed building is out of keeping with the housing in the area. "The design is a perimeter build, 4 wings around a hidden courtyard. It will damage the character of the historic streets bordering it, and it will obliterate enticing views of the historic roof townscape, the mountains and St Mary's Tower to visitors arriving at the bus station and large long-term car park and will visually cut off parts of town from others."

Historic, Grade II listed homes may also suffer from the proposals. Jacqueline said: "The grade II listed cottages, which measure only about 4.275m to the ridge, will have their setting harmed being overshadowed by the build behind them. Views of this as you round the corner into the street by the Watton Mount and Stables, and from the Gaer Library and Museum will be ruined. It seems ridiculous that a resident there, who got a bargain tin of Billabong Blue paint and happily painted his home received a letter the very next day from the Parks Authority ordering to him immediately restore it to slate grey, could be overshadowed by a building over twice the height of his cottage."

Jacqueline also cites the possible hit to tourism that could result in the development going ahead. "The potential damage to tourism is obvious as visitors seek to find in Brecon something different from the architecture which surrounds them in modern towns and cities and do not want their first and last and most dominating impression to be of one such gigantic construction."

Tourists are known to visit Free Street and absorb the 18th and 19th-century architecture, with The Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust saying: "Much of this later architecture survives unaltered and unspoilt by modern development, and combined with its medieval roots this contrives a particularly pleasing and valuable asset and one that is becoming increasingly rare in other towns in Wales."

And it's not only tourism that could be affected but local businesses too. Jacqueline says: "The design proposes outward facing living rooms and balconies on the South elevation overlooking the Clarence Beer and the Grange gardens threatening harm to these important, local businesses. The proposed design risks harming a beloved local pub."

Jacqueline has also cited that wildlife and habitat could be destroyed. "There is an ecological hit too, in the loss of a beautiful walnut tree and the wildlife it supports and the disruptive perimeter design to wildlife corridors."

In a letter to Jacqueline, obtained by The Brecon and Radnor Express, Asbri said that The Welsh Government have provided support to Wales & West Housing Association to acquire land in Brecon for the proposed extra care facility in the form of capital funding. Powys County Council have also given their blessing through their Housing Strategy Team to receive social housing grants in 2024/25 and future years. The grant is used to fund affordable housing schemes 'that meet local housing needs and strategic priorities as identified by local authorities'.

Louise Davies, a resident of Free Street, is one person writing to developers to raise concerns. "As a group, we have no issue with the use of the land to develop flats to provide accommodation for people requiring extra care. Indeed a development in or near town amenities provides obvious benefits. We do not seek to change the use. However, this development is so large it completely overshadows all the properties in the surrounding streets and dominates the view on entering Brecon from the bus station side and Penlan Hill.

"The developers suggest that a 66 flat 4 storey building in that position will have little or no effect for people living around it and suggest that the view on entering Brecon is not important," Louise said. "Likewise they have provided surveys which we are concerned may be inaccurate regarding light levels and the 45-degree rule to back their assertions. Our main aim would be to achieve a significant reduction in the height of the building. Secondly a possible reduction in the footprint. Please note this is a secondary concern."

Cadw were contacted by the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority with regards to monuments such as Brecon Castle, Brecon bridge, and the town wall at Watton Mount. Cadw responded in a letter, saying: "The above designated historic assets are located inside 2km of the proposed development, but intervening topography, buildings and vegetation block all views between them. Consequently, the proposed development will have no impact on the settings of these designated historic assets. Cadw therefore has no comments."

Jon Harvey, Regional Development Manager at Wales & West Housing, said: “With an ageing population and increased need for care provision, Brecon desperately needs an extra care housing development such as the one we are proposing.

“This is an exciting opportunity to redevelop a brownfield site to create a community of 66 apartment homes where local older people can live independently.

“Extra care schemes give residents the chance to live in their own home, with their own front door, and the reassurance of access to round-the-clock on-site care and support. This development will also include an on-site restaurant and shared communal facilities such as gardens, lounges and a laundry.

“The Brecon town centre location is ideal for residents. It’s close to the bus station and all the other amenities.

“Our architects have studied the character and key architectural features of buildings in the conservation area and the neighbouring properties and have designed a scheme, which is sympathetic to those other buildings and will have minimum impact on neighbouring properties.

“Since carrying out our public consultation and exhibition last February, we have taken on board the comments from local people, councillors and other statutory authorities and have worked with the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority to design a scheme that meets the needs of older people in the community.

“If granted permission, this would be our seventh extra care scheme in Wales and the second in the county.

“Our aim is to create a flagship extra care facility that the people of Brecon can be proud of.”

A spokesperson for Powys County Council said: "“Powys County Council is exploring opportunities to introduce extra care facilities in towns across the county.

“Extra care delivers modern, purpose-built accommodation which has 24-hour care and support available on site to meet the needs and changing expectations of residents, allowing them to live as independently as possible in their own homes.

"We are currently looking to develop an Extra Care facility on Free Street in Brecon, in partnership with housing association Wales and West Housing. The planning application has been submitted to Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, as the planning authority.

"We believe that the scheme will provide regeneration opportunities to Brecon and the wider area as well as provide a much-needed extra care facility that would support local residents.

"However, we recognise that local residents may have concerns and questions and it is important that they are able to voice these.

"At this stage, their concerns and questions should be raised with Bannau Brycheiniog National Park as the planning authority and with Wales and West Housing as the developer.”