The chief planning officer’s Report (Liam Jones – Caroline Bowen Case Officer for this Application), nearly 30 pages in length, was published on the Park’s website today (click here). The not unexpected but, nevertheless, tremendously disappointing news is that they are recommending to the planning committee when it comes before them on the 30th September, that it delegates the matter to the Officers for approval , subject to negotiation on a s.106 Agreement. In the face of all the opposition of the people of Newport, along with the resolution of the Town Council, to this application, due to the devastation that will be caused to the environment and the serious traffic issues which we already battle with particularly in the summer months, this news is nothing short of a planning travesty.
The reasons given by the Officers why the number of dwellings on the site as recommended by the Inspector in the LDP, have been plainly ignored, amount to little more than a tissue of irrational excuses, when in truth they have simply accepted the Applicant Agent’s plea for more houses to make it more “financially viable” as justifying the huge increase in the numbers. They cite the ludicrous rationale that the site is within the “settlement centre” line of Newport, where national planning policy would expect a far higher density of development to take place. This line was move from its previous position (excluding this site) in the 2006 Development Plan to wrap tightly around this proposed site by the Officers themselves, before placing in front of the 2010 LDP Inspector as a “done deal”. He, however, expressly placed a cap on the number of units on this site in his recommendation, precisely aware of where this line was and what it represented.
They also say most perversely in their conclusion that;
“… The proposed development – whilst greater in density than advised in the housing allocation in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Local Development Plan – would provide a previously unforeseen opportunity for the provision of new dwellings within the Centre of Newport, the development of which can still be demonstrated as being appropriate to the site and setting in terms of siting, design, access, landscaping and external appearance.”
“Previously unforeseen opportunity”? Damn it all, for heaven’s sake, the site is actually allocated in the Local Development Plan for 12, or at most 20, houses – the only bit “previously unforeseen”, is the utter contempt and disregard with which the Park’s own Officers are now prepared to dismiss the clear cut and unconditional commitments and limitations as set out in their own Plan.
Hence the Officers are now willing to recommend a departure from the Authority’s own LDP, which was meant to be a democratic process, to which many people gave many hours of their time believing it was for the good of Newport, for spurious reasons that carry no water. This site was never a favoured site even for the lower numbers of 12-20 houses but, it was accepted with the ratio of 70% affordable to 30% open market.
If the Planning Committee now sees fit to approve this application, we will be looking at a development which includes 40% rented (of which 7×1 bedroom) and 60% open market (of which there are 12x 4 bedrooms). There has been no viability scheme submitted for this application, whereas previous schemes with lesser dwelling numbers that have been presented have been proved viable.
The Newport of the future lies in the hands of the Committee Members. Can we trust them to commit to one of their statutory purposes : “To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park”, or will we be let down for the minimal amount of rented social housing this development will provide, which goes no way to providing the future needs of Newport and families with children.
What we have is a development that will provide a handsome return for the owners and developer and more open market housing for second homes in a Community where census figures already indicate a second home ownership rate close in excess of 40% !