Friday, 18 September 2015

Cross Hands and a £1.1m 'oops'

Members of the Council's Community Scrutiny Committee were surprised to learn on Monday that the Cross Hands East strategic employment site was going to cost the taxpayer an extra £1.1m as the council had lost a Land Tribunal hearing. The court costs remain unknown.

The Tribunal made a revaluation ruling after two pieces of land became the subject of Compulsory Purchase Orders put forward by the council back in 2013. The land in question was to form part of the road within the site.

Cllr Meryl Gravell was quick to express her 'disappointment' in the local press last Monday with the statement that "the cost was more than it should be" which rather suggests she felt the Tribunal got it wrong.

The detailed judgement, actually published last November and which can be read here explains that it was the council who undervalued the land in the first place. The main argument revolves around the council's flawed decision not to allow at least part of the land for housing, a ploy which enabled them to try and get the land as cheaply as possible.

In another example, part of the land falls outside the development limits of Cross Hands, and the ruling found that the head of planning's reliance on an exemption which permits 'small scale employment undertakings' was laughable as the actual permission granted was for an Industrial Park, offices, business incubator units, a hotel, a business central hub, resource centre, energy centre etc etc, hardly, the Adjudicator remarked, 'small scale'.

Not that I'm suggesting the council were trying to play fast and loose with their own planning rules of course...

One councillor called for a review of the whole scheme in light of the financial strain on the council but as with all council 'masterplans' and 'visions' nothing must get in the way of developments, even £1.1m which hadn't been budgeted for. Not only that but the Cross Hands development now also forms part of the Swansea Bay City Region plan which involves Meryl's latest hero and billionaire, Sir Terry Matthews.

1 comment:

Cneifiwr said...

This is truly scandalous. The verdict was published in November 2014, and this is the seventh occasion on which the Community Scrutiny Committee has met since then with no mention of the £1.1 million in additional costs until it is noted, in passing, as a "variance" arising from "land issues".

The council has clearly not taken on board Wales Audit Office criticisms of the way it reports bad news and controversial decisions to councillors, and thereby the rest of us.

Put simply, while it continues to act like this, the council cannot be trusted.

There was also an interesting piece about Sir Terry, Meryl and the Swansea Bay City Region project in the Carmarthen Journal this week. Sir Tel reckons Carmarthenshire should rebrand itself as a "region of Cardiff". Strange, given that he is supposed to be promoting Swansea, which he presumably also sees as a "region of Cardiff".

But Sir Tel has form here. He also believes that Newport and Monmouthshire should market themselves as regions of Cardiff.

Rather oddly this was picked up by the Swindon Advertiser:

Perhaps Cardiff should be marketing itself as a region of Swindon, which is about as close to the Welsh capital as a huge swathe of Carmarthenshire.

But why stop there? Llanidloes could improve its image by declaring itself to be a suburb of Cardiff - just up the road from Grangetown.

In fact, why not rebrand Wales as Cardiffland?