Judge to hear res­i­dents’ ob­jec­tions to homes plan

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - LIZ BRADFIELD news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

A HIGH Court judge will hear res­i­dents’ claims that Brid­gend coun­cil broke plan­ning rules over an ap­pli­ca­tion for a 15-home de­vel­op­ment.

Plans for the de­vel­op­ment on the old Coed Parc Li­brary site off Park Street in Brid­gend were given ap­proval in De­cem­ber 2017.

But due to the process un­der­taken by BCBC the ap­pli­ca­tion never went be­fore the lo­cal author­ity’s de­vel­op­ment con­trol com­mit­tee de­spite nu­mer­ous ob­jec­tions from res­i­dents liv­ing nearby in Wal­ters Street.

Res­i­dents are ob­ject­ing to the way 10 of the new homes will be ac­cessed by ex­tend­ing their quiet culde-sac onto the site.

They say the orig­i­nal en­trance off Park Street – the A473 – which is be­ing used for five homes should be used for all 15, high­light­ing road safety is­sues at the St Leonard’s Road/ Park Street junc­tion which would be used by ve­hi­cles ac­cess­ing their homes via their cul-de-sac.

One of the res­i­dents, Alis­tair Nel­son, says BCBC plan­ning of­fi­cers con­sid­ered the ap­pli­ca­tion un­der del­e­gated author­ity and claims they “ig­nored” a pe­ti­tion signed by 26 res­i­dents against the plans as well as ob­jec­tion let­ters and the views of two lo­cal county coun­cil­lors and the town coun­cil.

The site, which in­cludes a Grade II listed build­ing, was sold by BCBC to Wales and West Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion in 2012.

In 2016 Wales & West’s com­mer­cial sub­sidiary, Castell Homes, ap­plied to de­velop the site with one ap­pli­ca­tion for all 15 homes and a sep­a­rate one seek­ing con­sent to con­vert the listed build­ing into two homes.

How­ever in­stead of the ap­pli­ca­tion go­ing be­fore the coun­cil’s plan­ning com­mit­tee of­fi­cers re­fused the full ap­pli­ca­tion and ap­proved the listed build­ing con­sent in Au­gust 2017.

Res­i­dents claim the con­sent was il­le­gal be­cause un­der BCBC’s scheme of del­e­ga­tion the lo­cal author­ity should deal with ap­pli­ca­tions at its plan­ning com­mit­tee when more than two neigh­bours sub­mit “a ma­te­rial plan­ning ob­jec­tion in writ­ing which has not been re­solved by ne­go­ti­a­tion or through the im­po­si­tion of con­di­tions”.

Res­i­dents ar­gue the re­fusal for the full ap­pli­ca­tion was based on a “weak ar­gu­ment” in­volv­ing road safety is­sues driv­ing into Wal­ters Road from St Leonard’s Road. They have claimed there have not been any ac­ci­dents over the last two decades at the junc­tion.

They say this, to­gether with the listed build­ing con­sent, paved the way for a plan­ning in­spec­tor to eas­ily over­turn the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion and per­mit the en­tire de­vel­op­ment as soon as Castell Homes ap­pealed.

Ear­lier this year res­i­dents turned to Welsh min­is­ters, via cab­i­net sec­re­tary for plan­ning Les­ley Grif­fiths, to ask them to re­voke the listed build­ing con­sent, say­ing it was “il­le­gally” ap­proved by del­e­gated author­ity rather than go­ing be­fore coun­cil­lors on the plan­ning com­mit­tee.

But min­is­ters re­fused say­ing the claim was “fun­da­men­tally mis­con­ceived” and that the dis­agree­ment should have been “ven­ti­lated else­where”.

Hav­ing jointly spent thou­sands of pounds bat­tling the de­ci­sion, res­i­dents in Wal­ters Road were dis­mayed af­ter a High Court judge turned down their ap­pli­ca­tion for a ju­di­cial re­view in July.

How­ever Dr Nel­son is ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion and on Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 2, he will present his case be­fore a dif­fer­ent judge, ask­ing for the re­fusal to be re­con­sid­ered.

He said: “We ap­plied to the Welsh min­is­ters be­cause BCBC broke their own rules by ap­prov­ing it by del­e­gated author­ity.

“We com­plained 20 times – to the lo­cal plan- ning author­ity, to the mon­i­tor­ing of­fi­cer of BCBC who is sup­posed to be re­spon­si­ble for in­ter­nal pro­ce­dure, to Cadw and the Welsh Govern­ment.

“It’s been ven­ti­lated to death, they can’t com­plain it hasn’t been ven­ti­lated else­where.

“This is not about the dis­pute, it’s about a wider is­sue with the plan­ning sys­tem in Wales.

“The ju­di­cial re­view ap­pli­ca­tion is against the pro­ce­dure be­cause BCBC broke the rules by not tak­ing the orig­i­nal plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to its de­vel­op­ment con­trol com­mit­tee.

“I be­lieve this is­sue has now gone be­yond the con­cerns of Wal­ters Road res­i­dents and rep­re­sents a na­tional is­sue about the in­tegrity of the Welsh plan­ning sys­tem.

“If this re­fusal was to stand then any lo­cal plan­ning author­ity could bend or break the rules with im­punity.”

Dr Nel­son has the back- ing of sev­eral Assem­bly Mem­bers and county coun­cil­lors.

Suzy Davies, Con­ser­va­tive AM for South Wales West, said: “I am in­creas­ingly wor­ried that, for more and more of my con­stituents, ju­di­cial re­view seems to be the only op­tion avail­able to them when they feel their ob­jec­tions to ac­tion by a pub­lic body have gone un­heard – from school clo­sures to plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions.

“The Welsh Govern­ment prides it­self on in­tro­duc­ing rights when, in re­al­ity, there is no rem­edy for their breach. I hope that will change as a re­sult of its re­cent con­sul­ta­tion on chang­ing the plan­ning sys­tem in Wales.

“In par­tic­u­lar, where ob­jec­tors ar­gue there has been a ma­te­rial breach of process, as al­leged here, or of the Welsh Govern­ment’s own poli­cies, res­i­dents should not have to fall back on ex­pen­sive ju­di­cial re­view: the ‘call­ing in’ cri­te­ria needs up­dat­ing to of­fer a more re­spon­sive ser­vice to my con­stituents and, per­haps, con­cen­trate the minds of of­fi­cials and elected plan­ning com­mit­tee mem­bers a lit­tle ear­lier in the process.”

Dai Lloyd, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, said: “From the ev­i­dence pre­sented to me, it ap­pears that BCBC has not fol­lowed its scheme of del­e­ga­tion with re­gards to this ap­pli­ca­tion.

“Given the strong level of lo­cal ob­jec­tion the ap­pli­ca­tion should have been de­ter­mined by the coun­cil’s de­vel­op­ment and con­trol com­mit­tee but, for what­ever rea­son, this didn’t ma­te­ri­alise in this in­stance and was in­stead ap­proved un­der del­e­gated author­ity by a plan­ning of­fi­cer.

“It seems only right and proper that this ap­pli­ca­tion should have been sub­ject to ro­bust demo­cratic scru­tiny and de­bate.

“As a re­sult I feel that Dr Nel­son’s re­quest for a ju­di­cial re­view is rea­son­able and should be sup­ported.”

Ward coun­cil­lor Carolyn Web­ster added: “Sadly I wasn’t in post in 2016 when this ap­pli­ca­tion started go­ing through.

“If mem­bers of the pub­lic feel that their ob­jec­tions are not be­ing heard it’s im­por­tant we sup­port them to en­able that to hap­pen.”

Both the Welsh Govern­ment and Brid­gend County Bor­ough Coun­cil said they could not com­ment while le­gal pro­ceed­ings were on­go­ing.

Wal­ters Road in Brid­gend, a cul-de-sac which is to be opened up to ac­cess a de­vel­op­ment on the old Coed Parc Li­brary site

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