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What it means to be a sustainable community, by Mari Arthur of Cynnal Cymru


Mari Arthur, director of Cynnal Cymru

Cynnal Cymru is the national charity for sustainable development in Wales with 17 years’ experience working with public, third and private sector organisations around Wales on embedding sustainability and new Welsh legislation such as The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015. The charity brings together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to develop shared understanding and outcomes, with the aim of creating a more sustainable Wales.

When most people think about sustainability, the first thing they consider is probably the environment. While creating a world where we live in balance with nature is a big part of sustainability, it’s also much more than that. In broad terms, being sustainable means meeting the needs of the present in a way that doesn’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs as well.

We define ‘Sustainable Development’ as the process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales; we want to see a Wales that’s fair, prosperous and healthy, as well as low carbon and resource efficient.

Active travel is key to creating a sustainable Cardiff; we need to adopt a different mindset when it comes to transport. If more people were to walk, cycle and use public transport that would not only reduce congestion in the city, but also improve air quality (which is a real and immediate concern for people living in Cardiff) as well as our own health and wellbeing. It’s encouraging to see Plasdŵr prioritising walking and cycling as the easiest ways to get around and improving existing infrastructure with new cycle routes and bus services. We hope residents within the development and its neighbouring communities will see this as an opportunity to become less reliant on their cars.

It’s important to make sure there are places for people to work, shop and socialise where they live – not just in the city centre. Once Plasdŵr’s district centre is complete our hope is that the new community will be able to access everything they need within walking or cycling distance, without needing to get in their cars. Proposals include space for shops, offices, restaurants and community facilities. This would also help to create jobs in an area of Cardiff that people have traditionally needed to commute from, bringing new opportunities to different parts of the city.

Creating schools within walking distance of homes is also key to reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality in the city. Levels of traffic are considerably higher at school pick-up and drop-off times than at other times of the day. We’re optimistic that plans for Plasdŵr, which include four new primary schools and a secondary school, will give children living within the development the opportunity to go to a school they can walk or cycle to.

We’re facing a biodiversity crisis in Wales and across the world, so plenty of green space is incredibly important to ensuring sustainability. Developers need to be sensitive to wildlife, taking into consideration things like light pollution and including green corridors for wildlife to travel between key habitats. The Plasdŵr masterplan promises to do this, with green corridors across the site to allow newts, bats, hedgehogs and other local wildlife to migrate safely. There is also provision for allotments, parks and accessible woodland creating opportunities for people to spend time in nature – something which has been proven to have a positive impact on wellbeing.

By becoming a member of Cynnal Cymru, Plasdŵr has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability, but we also need people to think differently about the way they live. The community at Plasdŵr has an opportunity to embrace a new way of living. If new residents throw themselves into a culture of active travel, sustainable living and community, Plasdŵr has the potential to be an inspiring example for other developments.