Saturday, 7 November 2015

Persimmon permission - a nod and a wink?

This week's Herald puts the spotlight yet again on Carmarthenshire's notorious planning 'process'. One of the articles concerns a planning application for 91 homes in Hendy, near Llanelli. With the planning application not yet decided, locals were shocked a couple of weeks ago when Persimmon Homes brought in the bulldozers, clearing the ground, felling trees and preparing the road entrance.

By anyone's imagination the works were over and above anything allowed under permitted development. Others claimed to have seen the 'houses' advertised on the Persimmon website.
Some wondered, with the recent approval of the council leader's barn conversion, if planning permission, prior to starting work, is still a requirement in Carmarthenshire....

The outcry from local residents, some of whom were now dealing with water run-off into their properties prompted a public meeting held last week. Unfortunately Persimmon threatened to walk out of the meeting if the Herald and the BBC filmed it, but luckily, careful notes were taken. No one was present from the planning department although the local councillor, who has, rather late in the day, asked for it to go to the planning committee, was present.

Image via Hidden Carmarthenshire and the Llanelli Herald - for video click here
What transpired during the meeting was that Persimmon claimed to have been given the nod from planning officers that planning consent was a done deal, just a matter of signing off the delegated approval.

The Persimmon representative said;
"We had been promised delegated approval for several weeks leading up to this. From our perspective, we thought that planning consent had been approved...As far as we were concerned we were going to get planning consent for that site.."

They also claimed that this 'preparatory work' was carried out with the full knowledge of the council. Interestingly, the council do not actually contradict this statement but since, and only since, the outcry first reached the press have the council told Persimmon to cease the work, for now.

I wouldn't like to hazard a guess how Persimmon were promised planning approval as they claim, but this is big business, courted by County Hall, and I am certain they can recognising a nod and a wink when they see one.

Whether or not this application makes it to the wonderful planning committee remains to be seen and of course, that will be another story...

I'm not sure how much of a shambles the Carmarthenshire public are supposed to tolerate, at some point maybe the Welsh Government will decide that enough's enough and finally put the planning department, and it's committee, into special matter how much the chief executive stamps his feet.

Also in the Herald is another excellent Cadno piece which reflects on the events above, the latest episode in the long running comedy show, Meryl and Mark's Wild West World of Planning.

Carmarthenshire Herald


Anonymous said...

Hardly a week passes and we see another example of the shenanigans that is Carmarthen Planning. It has been described as being like a "banana republic"
In all honesty that is an insult to those that are described by some as "banana republics". The Wales Audit office and the WLGA and The Welsh Assembly need, as a matter of urgency, to hold a public enquiry into the machinations of County Hall. No ifs no buts from M.James.Perhaps the possibility of special measures being imposed might bring about a major change in the culture that has been allowed to permeate through the planning department over so many years. The new Head of Planning will need a very strong backbone if she is to make the changes that are long overdue in order to regain any semblance of credibility .

Anonymous said...

How many more times does there have to be a demand for a Public Inquiry into this now absolute insult of a panning/enforcement department. Planning rules for some, a 'nod and a wink' for others. This clearly was the case at Blaenpant Farm where officers stood by and watched whilst a scrap metal merchant/landowner vandalised a Special Area of Conservation, also mentioned in the Herald. Not only did they stand by and witness the wanton destruction of this SAC site, they watched whilst the owner constructed his own private road across it, making it the FOURTH road this particular landowner has built across his land, none of which have been applied for, none of which have planning permission. Was this an oversight on behalf of officers - was it incompetence - or was it, as it appears for some, 'a nod and a wink'???

Anonymous said...

How much longer do the long suffering public have to read about dodgy planning??? Some have to abide by the procedures - others clearly do not.

When businesses can purchase farms - build industrial units claiming agricultural rights in order to do so it is becoming ever more apparent that it is done on a nod and a wink!!!!

It is what everyone has suspected for years. It is so blatant now there needs to be a fresh call for an investigation into this planning department.

Anonymous said...

How they talk when under public scrutiny. Of course this would happen in a Public Inquiry, which is precisely why we need one - Mark James. God forbid he would want to know the truth of what goes on in this wretched department,

Anonymous said...

Surely the planning function of a Ls is supposed to be quasi judicial and run as near perfectly as possible to retain public confidence.

It is alleged that someone in the Planning Dept has given the green light to a multi national building company to start work prior to planning consent being granted.

If this has happened, and let's face it it is a big if, surely someone somewhere has crossed the line into misconduct in public office ?

Bearing in mind what the building company has said, and if it is reported accurately then this is clearly morally wrong - but is it legally wrong ?

Redhead said...

Persimmon seems to have this understanding throughout the UK - it seems that there is a Persimmon employee somewhere who has the golden touch ...

caebrwyn said...

@Anon 11:38

I agree, there are a few 'ifs' in this, hence my '?' in the title of the post.
I would say that 'if' the reported words from the company are correct then legal lines have definitely been crossed by the council. If not, or it was a misunderstanding then it suggests that the company are trying their chances. However the extent of the clearance work suggests to me that they were more than just hopeful that delegated consent would be granted.

Whatever has happened, public confidence in the planning process in Carmarthenshire remains at rock bottom, and this latest episode hasn't helped matters.

Anonymous said...

The Local Government Association’s document “Probity in planning
for councillors and officers” offers this advice on pre-application discussions

“….Officers should be present with councillors in pre-application meetings…a written note should be made of all meetings. An officer should make the arrangements for such meetings, attend and write notes. A note should also be taken of any phone conversations, and relevant emails recorded for the file. Notes should record issues raised and advice given. The note(s) should be placed on the file as a public record. If there is a legitimate reason for confidentiality regarding a proposal, a note of the non-confidential issues raised or advice given can still normally be placed on the file to reassure others not party to the discussion.”

Anonymous said...

Probity - that's something that is never on the agender where planning is concerned. Persimmon needs to explain which officer gave them the nod. As for officers standing aside while a landowner commits a criminal offence makes them as guilty as he is. Beinh complicit has to be taken very seriously and these officers should be investigated

Anonymous said...

Just seen the video relating to the Persimmon application on the Llanelli Herald’s Facebook page -

In the video a local resident asks why the local County Councillor's comments in favour of the development have been removed from the council's website. The document in question has now reappeared and can be seen here -

Looking at the document’s metadata, it was first uploaded to the Council’s planning site on 3rd August and appears to have been uploaded again on the 2nd November. It shows that Persimmon have confirmed acceptance of community contributions. The officer asks “Did you have any luck with Simon Charles?“ The councillor replies that he has and has no objection to the application.

The local resident asks for transparency and openess in regards to the application – fat chance!