Thursday 25 July 2013

Stradey development - Cllr Caiach writes to the Minister - Updated

Update 27 July: Carl Sargeant replied to Cllr Caiach yesterday and it seems to me that there is some question as to whether the work should have started at all:

"Officials have requested written confirmation from Carmarthenshire County Council, as local planning authority for the area, of their opinion as to whether there has been a lawful commencement of development at the site.
Once the Council’s response to that request has been received officials will be able to progress their consideration of the call-in requests and preparation of advice for me. Until then the call-in requests remain to be determined and the Article 18 Direction preventing the Council from granting planning permission on application S/23311 remains in force."


Work at the Stradey site to build 355 luxury homes has started. This, readers may remember, was a very contentious issue and all tied up with the council's dream to build the taxpayer draining stadium at Parc Y Scarlets a few miles away. I'll not go over it all again but as you can see below, Cllr Caiach has written to Carl Sargeant, now the Minister in charge of Planning instead of Local Government, and the letter speaks for itself;

Dear Minister, 
The residents of the Stradey Area continue to be anxious and distressed at the continued building by Taylor Wimpey at the Stradey Park site. They are extremely worried about the flood risk likely as the site is clearly being raised above the level of their own dwellings in an area already prone to flooding. 
I am sure you are aware of the implications of the flood water displacement involved in raising acres of land out a C2 flood plain. I have already asked you about the position of the Article 18 "stop" order on the development and whether the Article 18 has been withdrawn as happened with a similar order on this site which was dropped by Jane Davidson on the threat of legal action by Taylor Wimpey some years ago. 
The residents are outraged. The people likely to suffer are the residents of a modest council estate , Iscoed, and a road of small terraced houses, Sandy  Road. They are people of modest means, many are elderly, most have low incomes, a large number rely on benefits and few will be able to relocate to a safer area if the "flood risk mitigation" of raising the land around them goes ahead. These new homes are not for people like them, but for the benefit of others and to the detriment of local people.   
As you are aware, the new development is one of luxury homes only with no social housing or
starter homes. I am aware that my authority, Carmarthenshire County Council, is desperate to have the development completed in order to claim the outstanding £4.6M section 106 agreement. 
This money was to be the "Scarlet's" contribution to the new Parc Y Scarlets Stadium and as the development was delayed the County Council advanced this money to the Scarlets from our reserves. 
The County Council has continued with this project even against the advice of outside auditors who found that the business plan was extremely "challenging". Indeed the auditors have been proved right in that the Scarlets are insolvent, their debts have increased and giving planning permission on a flood plain in order to raise the value of their land so it could be sold to clear their debts has not brought the financial benefits envisaged. 
This leaves my voters as the victims of an ill conceived financial deal to build a stadium and save a private sports club from financial problems. The Stadium has been built, the club is still in the financial mire and local residents will have increased  risk to themselves, their own homes and possessions. 
We have a recession, poor employment prospects and face years of austerity while our authority pushes for luxury homes to be built on artificial cliffs looking down on them. 
I beg you, Mr Sargeant, to look objectively at this farce. The last major flood at the Iscoed estate was in 1981 when it flooded to a maximum depth of 10 feet and many were rescued by boats. Since then, despite the Council raising pavements and garden paths and doorsteps, minor floods occur whenever there is heavy rain and sandbags on the doorstep are a common sight and minor ground floor floods not uncommon. 
Flooding in this area is no theoretical possibility. Most of the water pours off the Stradey Park. The new development will rob the area of the "sponge" effect of the practice pitches next to Iscoed and the raised land will effectively dam the water into the natural depression in which the estate was built.
At a public meeting last week I showed the local audience my routine "17 day" reply response from your department. We felt it would be appropriate for you to reply to us a little faster! The issue is "Can the Government of Wales stop development on dangerous flood plains?" 
Please Answer! 
Sian Caiach
County Councillor
Hengoed Ward
(For further background to the controversy surrounding the Council/Stradey/Parc y Scarlets deals please search this blog or Google)


Anonymous said...

She has got to be one of the only caring and thoughtful councillors in Carmarthenshire.

In the old days she would be Labour. I'm afraid the local Labour Party should be ashamed of themselves.

Oh and by the way I have listened to Mr Madge performing at Council meetings and if he is the best they can come up with for leader then we have little hope.

We now need to clone about 40 councillor caiches to take control and get this council operating on a sound democratic basis again.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. God knows we need more like her. As for Carl Sargeant and the Welsh Government, we might as well be sending in pigeons with messages for all the notice they take of the world outside of their castle.

They have become more of an obstacle to overcome than a government for the people of Wales to turn to.

Anonymous said...

Go Cllr Caiach and the minority of Cllrs who represent the interests of the people they serve!

Anonymous said...

I admit, I know very little about planning but given the "Article 18 Direction preventing the Council from granting planning permission ..." then shouldn't work on the site cease? CCC are setting a should lead by example not set a precedent!

Anonymous said...

Good for Councillor Caiach - an excellent letter - unbelievable that it should be necessary. I cannot imagine the unbearable stress the neighbours must be living under. This crazy scheme should never have been started. The writing was on the wall in November 2007 - but almost no councillor wanted to/was allowed to/or indeed even turned up to criticise the mad scheme. For readers' interest - here's the letter Carmarthenshire Ratepayers' Association provided ahead of the meeting:

Meryl Gravell - Carmarthenshire County Council
Martin Morris - “ “ “
Mark James - “ “ “
Ceri Stradling - Wales Audit Office
9 November 2007

Dear Madam/Sirs,

I am a qualified accountant with 20 years of experience including time with the Audit Commission. I write on behalf of our members with reference to the full council meeting with Llanelli RFC to be held on Wednesday next (14th November 2007).

We understand that councillors are to make a decision on the Pemberton Stadium on this day, following a presentation from Llanelli RFC.

We urge that Councillors are warned that they must not make a decision on the day, as they cannot have been provided with the necessary financial information.

We demand that Councillors are made fully aware of the following:-

1) The most recent audited accounts submitted to Companies House are for July 2005

2) That the accounts for July 2006 are seriously overdue - the deadline for their submission being 31 May 2007. (The Club is in breach of Company Law).

In this situation, no reliance can be placed on any financial presentation given by Llanelli RFC – as the basis of any financial forecast must be recent audited financial figures. The audited accounts are already 2 years out of date. The loss in 2005 was £2m, and in the absence of any information, it must be assumed that the loss in the two most recent years could considerably exceed this.

The decision by the council must be deferred until up to date audited accounts are available. Carmarthenshire Ratepayers’ Association exists to make the County Council accountable to the Ratepayers of Carmarthenshire. We intervene as we foresee unacceptable risks being taken with ratepayers’ money and assets.

Councillors allowing themselves to be rushed into a decision, based on information provided from such a questionable source, involving such huge sums of public money, would be guilty of gross negligence.

Tessa Finch
Carmarthenshire Ratepayers’ Association

It gives me no satisfaction to say "we (including SRAG)told you so" - ffs - it was glaringly obviously a financial disaster waiting to happen. There was no wisdom in predicting this.