Saturday 30 May 2015

Planning News - Updated

Update 4th June;

The council have announced this morning that the call-in requests for one of the Grillo applications - the one for 230 homes - have been rejected by the Welsh Government. This news came just one day after the Planning Committee meeting (see earlier update) and I suspect the remaining stop notices will be lifted in due course.
Emlyn Dole and Meryl expressed their joint delight at the decision...

The Carmarthenshire Herald has produced a video of the site visit and an interview with Alun Lenny, the Chair of the Planning Committee, published prior to today's decision by the Welsh Government.
It can be found on their Facebook page here.

Update 2nd June; 

Grillo site;

Following a site visit to Burry Port the planning committee were 'minded to approve' all the Grillo applications.
The Welsh Government are sill considering the call-in requests so until such time as that decision is made, a formal decision notice cannot be issued.

I will post a link to the Planning Committee meeting when it is archived (3rd June; here it is). Cllr Alun Lenny, who is now the Chair, asked whether complete reassurance can be given over the heavily contaminated site. The head of planning did not give a direct answer but said that their approval today was 'in principle', the details would be looked at later. An easier response would have been 'no'.

The fact that the report, upon which the committee relied, was not for third party use was not discussed...

Cllr Kevin Madge's supporting contribution centred around his new found hero, Sir Terry Matthews, Chair of the Swansea Bay City Region, who had been all the way to Singapore where they 'take land from the sea',....Not quite sure how relevant this was to anything but Kev was impressed and he clearly felt the need to share...

A vague response was given by the solicitor as to whether the committee would be liable over the breach of EU Urban Waste Water Habitats directive, currently in the UK courts and which specifically relates to the Llanelli waters.
The solicitor said that as they were only 'minding to approve', any legal issues would be ironed-out in the future should the WG decide not to call it in. Ah, that's ok then.

You definitely could not accuse the planning committee of scrutinizing the applications and the issues raised. Queries were minimal and it was clear that the spin had been unanimously swallowed. I expect the morning's site visit helped with that...

Well, Lord what's-his-name of Castletown will be well happy....


A trip to the former Zinc Oxide Grillo site in Burry Port has been squeezed in for next Tuesday's planning committee meeting. According to recent press reports it's 'all systems go' for the 'mixed-use' development which is a bit strange as, unless there's been a sudden u-turn, there's a stop notice currently in place from the Welsh Government whilst it considers several call-in requests.

A couple of years ago the developers, Castletown Estates Ltd (run by a wealthy Lord), backed by the council, took the Welsh Ministers to the High Court to overturn the previous Welsh Government refusal. The Council lost.

Regardless of call-in requests the applications still have to go to the Welsh Government anyway as the residential development is over 150 homes and also the site was not included in the recently adopted Local Development Plan as a 'strategic site',

Anyway, as far as we know, the stop notice is currently still in place but, undaunted, the planning committee are going to view the site, which is also partly owned by the council, and could decide to 'approve in principle'.

The paperwork for this batch of applications are extensive and include a technical report, running to several hundred pages. The report, commissioned by the applicants, forms the basis of the information to our planning committee and I am sure they will all read it, cover to cover...

Anyway, whether they read it or not let's hope they're told about the Third Party Disclaimer which warns third parties, eg a planning committee that the information contained in the report is second hand data which hasn't been independently verified and it is to be used only by the applicant. It is also out of date.
The proposals to deal with the severe contamination of the site are also contained within this 'not to be relied upon' report;

"..The conclusions resulting from this study and contained in this report are not necessarily indicative of future conditions or operating practices at or adjacent to the Site.".. 
Much of the information presented in this report is based on information provided by others. That information has neither been checked nor verified by Waterman Infrastructure & Environment Ltd." 

Should the committee approve the applications based on this report they could, in time to come, find themselves liable should something go wrong.

A formal objection was made by a county councillor and this was mentioned at the last meeting of the planning committee. The head of planning referred to the objection as 'flooding' related. This was not the case. The objections related to the heavy contamination of the Grillo site itself and the inadequacy of the sewage system, already past bursting point - an important consideration when planning for 230 houses and a large primary school etc.

The site is also adjacent to protected shellfish grounds and it is not apparent that the appropriate procedure for compliance with Technical Advice Note 5 which deals with protected species, has been adequately addressed.

 The actual objections still have not been sufficiently detailed in the planning officer's report for Tuesday's meeting, although apparently a hurriedly cobbled together 'addendum' will now be included at the last minute.
In addition, the section 106 contributions outlined back in 2008 for this development have been dramatically reduced, there is no mention of this reduction in the report to committee. If it wasn't for the county councillor flagging up the missing points, particularly the third party disclaimer, you wonder whether they would have been mentioned.

There's a point here for those who have made an objection to a planning applications in Carmarthenshire - are they considered and dealt with openly..or are they suppressed and a sanitized report presented to councillors instead, as could possibly have been the case here?

As for decisions delegated to officers, we recently learned that reports are no longer written for each application which again begs the question as to what happens to your objections?

In addition, a planning application which has attracted objections is no longer automatically brought to the committee, such a step would be at the discretion of the head of planning.

The Grillo site is in need of a revamp, no one is arguing otherwise but given the environmental sensitivity of the area the process needs to be thorough and correct and at the very least objections should be properly dealt with and presented to the committee impartially.

At the meeting on the 23rd April, the council solicitor had to warn the committee that their enthusiasm for the development was definitely giving the appearance of predetermination. When it does come up for decision, and they approve, they could be open to challenge by the ombudsman.

Labour Cllr Pat Jones, is quoted in the Llanelli Star this week in the 'all systems go' article I referred to above, enthusiastically supporting the application...even though she is a nominated substitute on the planning committee. I believe that's 'predetermination', Cllr Jones..

This week's Herald contains a two page report on the pollution in the waters around Llanelli, the mass mortality of cockles and the demise of the cockle industry. The pollution arises from the overflow of raw sewage after heavy rain. The council have always denied that there is a connection and has ploughed on with developments in the area adding to the problem. The Grillo site being the latest.

Mr James, some years ago, getting shouty with the cockle pickers...

At a recent full council meeting Mr James decided that the dirtier the water, the happier the cockle. A strange theory, debunked in this week's Carmarthenshire Herald.

Despite the council's denials that there is a pollution problem affecting the cockles, it has placed a large sign advising humans to wash their hands after using the beach.
The council has conveniently got around the need to test the water quality by designating the beach as 'not for bathing', however, it is a popular spot.

The detailed studies over the years have produced conflicting results but, as the Herald points out, the UK government has accepted the findings that the EU Urban Waste Water Directives have been breached in the Burry Inlet and elsewhere, and the matter is now in the courts.

The UK government has two months to come up with a solution or face possible fines of £1m per day. Such fines would be passed on to Welsh Government then onto Carmarthenshire Council.

The planning committee needs to approach this development with some caution at the very least and perhaps wonder why the council, along with the developers are so keen to push this through. Experience should tell us it's unlikely to be due to an overwhelming sense of public spirit.

The Breckman case
Finally a bit of number crunching in relation to the Breckman case and the latest efforts from Mrs Breckman to extract her £1000 compensation, awarded by the Ombudsman, from the chief executive. The council failed to enforce against what they called a 'privacy board' placed in front of Mrs Breckman's cottage window by her neighbour, for four long years.

The Ombudsman told the council that as their chance of enforcement had now passed, they should persuade the neighbour to remove it. He did remove it but within a few months had replaced it with a large lorry.

Mr James, with some glee, it has to be said, informed Mrs Breckman that as the board had been removed they didn't have to pay her a penny and there was now absolutely nothing they could do about the lorry.
This raises two points. Firstly, if it was in front of Mr James bedroom window I expect something would definitely be done. Secondly, does this set a precedent for plonking large lorries in random places across the countryside?

Cneifiwr has covered the story here (and also the Grillo saga) and notes the tone of Mr James. This is really the point here. It has been the council's failures and, to quote the now retired planning inspector who held a full appeal, their "turning a blind eye" to developments next door which has led to this situation.
There's no empathy, no diplomacy nor one iota of decency from Mr James. He sees himself as having won a petty personal victory against a pensioner.

As for the £1000? Let's not forget the £60,000 Mr James took for himself in unlawful pension payments and libel indemnity costs.
As for the pensioner, this has become a matter of principle, not money.


Anonymous said...

With regard to the compensation payment, I would question whether the decision was for Mark James to make. Surely it is for the elected members to decide.

Anonymous said...

'Mr James, some years ago, getting shouty with the cockle pickers...'

Wow, he is such an expert. Is there no end to his talents?

Heath & Safety

Anonymous said...

Why argue about whether all those new houses should go ahead. Let our council make the decision without hindrance. Oh! with the proviso of course that each and every one of those responsible for that decision backs his or her confidence with a prior deposit and agreement to actually buy one themselves and live there with their own families.
They would have to also agree to live there for at least five years.
If there is any risk at all that they might one day come up smelling of effluence, some of them might feel quite 'at home.'

Anonymous said...

Re – “In addition, a planning application which has attracted objections is no longer automatically brought to the committee, such a step would be at the discretion of the head of planning.”

In the Council’s constitution (Code of Conduct for Councillors and Officers in Planning Matters) it states that an application cannot be delegated to the Head of Planning for determination if it is a minor application where there is more than one letter of objection or if it is a major application where there is more than five letters of objection.

Patricia B said...

Since when did the Head of Planning E. Bowen comply with rules and procedures. This is the problem we all face - apart from the ones he gives favours to, and they benefit hugely, to the detriment of others who are not in favour.

Anonymous said...

RE. Anonymous 14.29 Gosh, I wish I'd known that a couple of years ago about 'more than one letter of objection' when that is exactly what happened. I'd love to know where I can find such information in writing?

Anonymous said...

I represented my community at a planning committee . There was no doubt that it was a "done deal" . The Chair of the committee gave a stark warning before any applications were considered which set the tone for the decision makng.
I can almost see the brown envelopes changing hands. If the Council wants to clean up its act it would be good to start with the planning committees. Webcasting is of little use as the camera only covers those who speak. When most of them are asleep ( its been a long day), what use is a webcast?

Wavell said...

"Emlyn Dole and Meryl expressed their joint delight at the decision...".

Gives the impression that we are going back to the good ol' days.