Finally, the Committee Members of the National Park Authority arrived to carry out a site visit on Monday 24th August.
We were also aware of an email on file from the applicant’s agent, Irvine Johnston, to the Case Officer, Caroline Bowen, stating
“I fear a publicised site inspection will generate significant disruption in and around the site”
Email continues …
“This will be compounded by the fact that the inspection is to be held on a Monday morning in the middle of the holiday season when Newport holds a weekly market on Mondays which requires the closure of Market Street to traffic, this will have the knock on effect of diverting traffic to the vicinity of the site, added to this the high levels of congestion experienced in the town during the height of the holiday season and I fear this will not give an impartial representative view of the locality for members”
This from the man who had recently submitted a traffic survey of Feidr Eglwys, Feidr Bentinck and Goat Street as part of an amended application which was carried out over just one week in April 2011 – that is before Easter – the results of which were claimed to be typical!
The email goes on
“I am conscious that during the initial LDP enquiry when the Inspector visited the site, he was subjected to considerable harassment from local residents. The opposition to this application appears to be much better orchestrated and I fear that things make (sic) get out of hand …
I think it would be prudent to move the visit onwards a month to allow the full force of the holiday season to have subsided …If we cannot secure an alternative inspection date prior to the September committee can I request the whole matter is moved onto the next committee (i.e. inspection 12th Oct and report 11th Nov).”
It seems that the agent’s view of the traffic situation here in the holiday season actually concurs with that of BDOG! And finally
“I would also add that conducting the inspection at this time will also require substantial risk management, not just of the angry crowd of objectors at the entrance but also of the approach roads which I am sure will be deliberately clogged with cars that will most probably impede the progress of any bus travelling around the vicinity of the site.”
The agent did say
“….I appreciate the public nature of these things and indeed respect the public’s right to comment”
and to their credit, the National Park proceeded with the fixed site meeting date, but they also refused to confirm to BDOG when the site visit would occur. When BDOG asked the planning officer at Development Control to confirm the date of the site meeting, we were told it was a private meeting. However, it would seem that all supporters were allowed on site and the applicants were obviously fully aware of the date and time and were able to turn out in force.
All BDOG members have conducted themselves appropriately at all times and we have resisted making an issue of the fact that this has not always been the case for some members of the owners’ family. Some 30- 40 family members and a few friends (some ferried to the site by more than one trip of a farm buggy in order not to clog the lanes) waited on the site to greet the Committee Members who arrived on foot on Monday. Unfortunately for the family, some of their vehicles managed on their departure to demonstrate to the members, who were standing on Feidr Bentinck, the backup that is experienced on a daily basis on Feidr Bentinck.
BDOG stayed away and this was because the National Park had indicated we were not welcome and we believed it wise to allow the Committee Members to inspect the site without distraction anyway, so that they could fully appreciate the full extent to which this proposed development would ruin this historic part of Newport and to appreciate the very difficult traffic issues we experience here before any further volume is added.
A local resident who was passing, was invited to stay by one of the owners if he was a supporter, and when he admitted he was not, he was asked to leave when he said he was not. He did however get told, when he said he understood that only a small percentage of the housing would be for social housing, that it was untrue what people were saying, and that it was all for local people! The family left their placards which read “Positive Development” and “Housing for Local People” on the field gate.
It does appear that the owners do not understand what they are applying for, as this simply is nonsense. The “affordable” housing comprises of 14 social rented units supplying 23 bedroom spaces only which is only 25% of those on the site and these are squashed together on just one sixth of the site. This will be allocated in line with the Pembrokeshire County Council allocation system and be available in perpetuity as affordable housing. It will be offered to people in the Newport Ward (Newport and surrounding area), in particular to people already on the housing list. However, it could be allocated outside this area immediately or later dependent on Council policy. There are no low cost homes to buy or rent to be provided
The proposed 21 open market units on the other hand would not have a 106 agreement and therefore could be bought by anyone who can afford them, with the potential to be another 21 holiday homes to add to around the 40% already existing in Newport. There are 12x 4 bed properties, 5 x3bed, 1x 2 bed and 3×1 bed in the open market houses providing 68 bedrooms. The house prices according to the “Lichfield/Golland Report” 2014, that was commissioned by the National Park Authority to look into affordable housing and viability calculated house values for Newport using data from a wider area including cheaper places like Dinas and the Gwaun Valley, to conclude that only 40% affordable housing was viable on this site, instead of the 70% written into the Local Development Plan.
All the houses on the site are detached. Lichfield /Golland set a 4 bed house at £372,000 where as at 23rd August 2015 Zoopla (not specified whether properties are detached or not) have given the average asking price in Newport as £420,000. A 3 bed house in the report is put at £298,000, whereas Zoopla have given the average price as £370,000. The report did not give a price for a 2 or 1 bed detached only a 2 bed semi-detached at £216,000.
The average gross salary in Pembrokeshire,( source David Morgan, Pembrokeshire County Council) is £22,956 This x 3.5 = £80.346. A lot of the employment in the Newport area is seasonal and casual so it begs the question, who are these houses for? There is no doubt there will be some local people who can afford them but there is already enough housing stock in Newport. Recent sales of houses are still going as second homes, so the existing proportion of second homes is rising each day. We do not need to build more.
The bottom line is that the amount of housing being proposed on this site is solely for maximum profit on the back of the small percentage of rented accommodation that is being provided. Don’t be duped, there is no control over this housing.
If the family members who have requested a wish to buy in their support letters, are able to buy, that’s fine.
But BDOG is fighting for the number of dwellings specified in the Local Development Plan to be adhered to so that this development minimises the effect it will have on the surrounding residents, the locals that walk these lanes and the tourists who come here for Newport as they know it and to give the people living on the site a quality of life that is fair, particularly the rented accommodation, which at present is locked into a small corner of the site.
If it is not viable with the smaller number of houses given in the Local Development Plan, then as Vicki Hirst, former PCNPA Head of Development Management said before she left, it can be taken out as a housing allocation.
All these points, and many other issues involved, are complex and would have been difficult to communicate to Development Committee Members at a site meeting, and very probably would not have been allowed to speak anyway.