The National Park lets Newport down badly yet Again !

Response for DMC Meeting 11th November

Application is approved

We are more than very disappointed with the Committee Members who yesterday sad to report have changed their suggestible minds and now voted to approve the application, which they were “minded” to refuse as recently as just last month. We now have no faith in the National Park to adhere to their own policies or to the provisions in the Local Development Plan (“LDP”). Having contributed so much work to the process of the LDP, we now feel our efforts have accounted for nothing and, obviously we will not now be prepared to become involved in the next LDP Replacement process, as it is a fruitless exercise that just gives lip service to a document that can later then be disregarded by the Park Officers and the Members of the Committee at their whim. There is no semblance of democracy when there can be such a blatant disregard for the LDP and the people who have taken part in its production process.

Even were one to ignore the plain statement at one point in the LDP that this site should be limited to just 12 dwellings precisely in order to “ensure that it does not harm the character of the area and to meet access constraints” the other clear-cut provision limiting the site to only 20 units has now been equally ignored and with equal contempt for public information and inclusion.

It is hard to believe that this application has been through a lengthy pre-application consultation (from which neighbours and the public was excluded) that is so flawed. We cannot believe that the qualified planning officers have seen fit to believe that this application is now “in accordance with” the LDP, when previously they have accepted it was “a departure” from it, and advertised it as such in the local newspaper back in May.

We cannot believe that the Agent for the applicants has been so unprofessional in interviews and newspaper articles when referring to the opposition Group. The Group has had to remain in dignified silence, while we have been lied about and misrepresented by the Agent and the owners of the land.

The Agent and owners have sold this to local people on the pretence of affordable homes for locals, while the Agent has publically admitted at least twice in interviews, that they can’t control who lives in the open-market housing. If they can’t control the occupancy, how can he claim they can control the prices they sell the properties at? All the open-market houses are potentially second homes, of which we already have around 40% in Newport.

We , who are genuinely concerned with the availability of Affordable Housing in Newport, are still shocked that the Park Officers regard the LDP as providing for only a 40% proportional commitment in Newport , which on this site was proposed for only rented housing anyway. The NPA bought in a private planning consultancy, at great public cost, to look at viability and decided to reduce this commitment from 70% in the LDP, but all without the benefit of arguing their case before a Welsh Planning Inspector at a public enquiry as they’re legally supposed to. Not content with this, the Applicant then bumped up the numbers of houses to 35 on a site that was allocated for just 20 units max. This in spite of the fact of his having earlier agreed with the NPA, that the site could be viably developed as per the LDP for just 20 dwellings of which 70% would be affordable, which is 58% smaller than he has now been given permission for this time ?

Instead, what we have been left with as a result of yesterday’s decision is nothing less than a “double whammy”, a planning travesty that will both mar the environmental and amenity value of our erstwhile pleasant coastal idyll, together with a vast modern housing estate development that will cause traffic and road safety mayhem for decades to come. All combined with a minimalist “ghetto -like” woefully inadequate for-rent-only provision towards Newport’s Affordable Housing need, which will otherwise now be ignored.

Alas, the planning system in this country, so bias in favour of the Developer as against the needs of the common people, means that the only hope which BDOG now has will be to mount a legal challenge against the National Park Authority, by way of judicial review. This will be a most expensive and complex litigious solution which we surely would have been praying to avoid. However, thankfully several prominent Welsh planning barristers have already been in touch willing to offer their services and we are assured we have a very good case. To contribute to our legal fund please be in touch with me at the following contact details :