Judge to hear residents’ objections to homes plan
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