National Park Decision fails to provide for Newport’s Local Housing need

For those who have hoped to buy an affordable home here in the near future, last Wednesday’s decision by the Development Management (Planning) Committee of the National Park – to approve the application for 35 houses with 14 “affordable” social rented units only – half of which have only one bedroom – was a disaster. There will be no “low cost homes” to buy on this, Newport’s one and only Housing Allocation site in the Local Development Plan (LDP)

The opposition group, BDOG, fought hard to prevent this happening and to get a better deal for local people, better designed social rented housing with the same amenities and the same safe access into town provided to the market houses on the site, more family sized social rented homes, and affordable houses to buy which would meet local needs. In the end, the majority of the National Park Planning Committee (DMC) didn’t listen to us, but to the supporters’ petition and a letter from – what the applicant’s Agent called – all local businesses of quality in the area, stating that this development “would offer significant potential housing to our employees”

The National Park planning officer stressed that these were” material planning considerations” which Members must take into account but he did not point out that few of the signatories were resident in Newport and he wrongly attributed the letter to businesses “in Newport” so that the Committee was unaware that most were in fact from far afield – places such as Clynderwen, Newcastle Emlyn and Abercych! It is very easy to support something, when you live miles away and it will not affect you. It is understandable that the man in the street could be duped by the notion that this application would provide affordable housing for local people, but it is unforgiveable for an Officer whose duty it is to protect the National Park, to present this petition and letter and tell Members they must have regard to them, but without analysing and qualifying their relevance.

The Committee was told by the Chairman of the National Park, Cllr Mike James (St Dogmaels) that the Welsh language Society, Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg, had written in support of the application, whereas in fact they had written to object in the strongest terms. He also said he welcomed the 12 open market 4 bedroom houses being available in Newport at the figure just given by the Agent of £300,000, as these would be more affordable than the prices that existing houses have commanded Quite rightly, Cllr Lyn Jenkins (Solva) retorted that even at £300,000, do we want the 12 x 4 bedroom market houses? Does Newport need them?

In truth, there will be no control on prices of the market houses and the Agent has admitted to that. This figure he has given are to make the open market houses sound affordable. Where are the people, local to Newport, for whom this site was supposed to meet needs, who will be able to afford even the Agent’s prices? The market houses are likely to go as second homes in a community which already has 40% of houses so occupied, and that is what worries Cymdeithas, as much as it does BDOG.

Cllr Bob Kilmister hit the nail on the head when he told the Planning Committee meeting that the social rented housing to be provided is a “minimal sop so that the site can be developed to maximum market value” He tried to point out how thoughtlessly these units had been designed when compared to the market houses – furthest away from, and with no safe pedestrian access into, town, tiny gardens, fenced off from the rest of the site with no safe access also to the open spaces provided. BDOG members, having raised the same objections since the application was lodged, in efforts to see the design improved, have simply been labelled nimbys.

Cllr Paul Harries (Newport) queried whether the Local Development Plan Inspector, who set a limit of 20 houses on this site, would have agreed to 35 houses? He had grave concerns about Newport’s fragile infrastructure and traffic problems that this development will cause, and he queried whether the access off Feidr Bentinck should be allowed at all. He emphasised that Newport will cease to be a viable community if present trends of increasing numbers of second homes continue.

Mr David Ellis (Rudbaxton) said his role as a Member (Appointee) is foremost to protect the special qualities of the National Park and he found the increase in numbers on the site insupportable. The Authority had written reams on the significance of Newport’s special environment, and what has been the point of all of that? He would have supported a scheme for 20 houses as stated in the LDP, protecting the view in and out to the Church, and felt strongly that this is simply the wrong plan: it is over-development. He asked why 35 had become the new 20, which is the number the public had been given to expect. Are figures in the LDP simply up for grabs? He predicted that the Authority would be challenged over this.

The only recourse left to BDOG now is to do just that.

For unfortunately, the other Members, having heard a one sided Officer report (with no mention of Newport Town Council objecting to the application, no mention of the loss of 80 metres of surrounding hedge banks, and no mention of letters opposing), having listened to arguments in support only from the floor (because those opposing were not allowed to speak as ridiculously, the National Park only allows you to do so once, no matter how long the application process takes), demonstrating little grasp of Newport’s needs and knowledge of our environment (even reading the plan upside down till towards the end of deliberations), not understanding that social rented tenants do not have the right to buy, and above all not disabused about the significance of the supporters’ petition and letter from businesses, voted to approve.

Watch this space. BDOG will fight on

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 :

Things warm up during the “cooling-off” period

The Group has found itself very busy in the last 2 weeks, amongst other matters refuting that we are against affordable housing. We have resisted throughout this campaign, to be drawn into a verbal argument replying to accusations and statements which are incorrect, save to make corrections and point out previous inconsistencies where appropriate. We will continue to do so and will address the merits of the planning application to support the reasons for our opposition.

A petition with nearly 1000 signatures was presented to the PNPA in support of the application. A letter of support was also sent signed by “every business in North Pembs of any quality”, said Wyn Harries, Planning Agent for the land owners, on Radio Cymru this morning. There wasn’t a cafe; restaurant; pub or shop in Newport Town on the letter.

We are not Nimbys, we just want to see a sensible development in this most sensitive of locations. We continue to campaign for a fair deal for the affordable housing and a limit to the open market, which the owners claim will benefit the local people alongside of the affordable. They appear to have lost sight of the fact that this site was allocated primarily for affordable housing. It was not allocated as a development site where there would be a contribution of affordable housing. We have persistently said that there will be no controls over the occupancy and cost of this open market housing.

The Agent has now come out and said the prices will be from £110,000. This for the 1 bedroom properties, of which there are only 3, whereas there are 12x 4 bedroom properties, included in the 21 open market houses with a market value of over £400,000. The agent concurred with BDOG regarding the control of the open market housing. In the same interview, he said, “We cannot put conditions on these 21 houses and who lives in them”, he went on to say that it was the traditional houses in Newport that are the expensive houses, as justification that there was an opportunity because they were new build. For the people who are supporting the application in the belief, there will affordable open market housing, this might come as a surprise.

The Planning Officer’s further Report is now available for the next meeting (click here), which is next Wednesday 11th November. In the report she now states :

“The application better accords with strategic policy 44 which requires a minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare. The proposal therefore accords with the local development plan, read as a whole, notwithstanding the exceedances of the allocation.”

Two things should be said about this as follows, (a) firstly, this represents a complete reversal, indeed a volte face, from the previous position adopted by the Officers of the Authority, whereby they had accepted that this application was “not in accordance with the development plan in force in the area” and indeed had advertised it as such in the Western Telegraph back at the end of May.

The reason why they have chosen to make such a crude and clumsy reversal now is as follows: – at the last meeting when they Committee Members voted (by 8 to just 3 against) to refuse the application, you will recall that the Officers suddenly stated that this required the instigation of the so-called “cooling-off period” procedure instead.

On investigation since then we have discovered that according to the exact language of the policy, this is only applicable where the Park Officer “identifies” the resolution as “constituting a significant departure from the LDP”. Whereas, here of course, the members are trying to uphold and invoke the policies and provisions of the LDP, as against the contrary advice and recommendation of the Officers, which is instead to approve the application in any case.

We wrote to the Park Officer threatening court action in the circumstances if he did not revoke the use of the cooling off period procedure. He wrote back now asserting that the procedure was warranted precisely because, in the view of his Officers, the application is now considered completely in accord with the LDP. Hence, the manifestly baseless and cynical decision of the Officers to now reverse their former position as to whether or not this application is a “departure” from the plan. We are taking legal advice as to our prospects were we to pursue litigation, in the hopefully now very unlikely event that the application were to be approved by the next committee.

Secondly, (b) the whole stated basis for this reversal of position, namely the application of Policy 44 provisions requiring a housing density of 30 units per hectare to be applied within a “settlement Centre”, was in any event fully explored and resoundingly rebutted by two local Committee Members at the last committee as follows:

(a) Cllr Bob Kilmister (Dinas) – who simply averred to the obvious fact that the LDP Planning inspector must be taken to have known about and to have had in mind the provisions of this Policy, when he nonetheless placed a cap of 20 units on the specific allocation in question.

(b) Cllr Paul Harries (Newport) – who cleverly required the Officer in question to complete the sentence of the policy provision which ends with the words “30 dwellings per hectare … where this is compatible with the character of the Centre”.

Despite the concerted campaign to persuade the DMC members to change their previous decision, we remain resolute that nothing has changed that should make them do so. The merits of the application remain the same, the 14 affordable already in the application have to be delivered. This is not a generous act by the landowners, it is statutory if this site is to be developed. What is not is the 21 additional houses, which supporters claim are needed but, as the Agent and BDOG have said, there is no guarantee who gets to live in them. And that means now and in the future. The DMC members are fully aware of this and are also fully aware of the high percentage of holiday home in Newport.

Finally, it has to be worth noting that the applicant’s current claim that building only 20 dwelling houses, with 70% committed to affordable housing, as set out in the LDP, is not a financially viable option, is apparently diametrically at odds with the position he was taking as recently as just February 2013. We have discovered an internal National Parks memo, from the professional planning officer then assessing the proposal, during the pre-application process phase, to a fellow officer, in which she says, as follows:

“The applicant has submitted several viability assessments for a range of house numbers of mix of market and affordable properties. It is acknowledged by the applicant that the mix of 20 units with 70% (14) affordable housing provision is the most viable option, but that this is based on the market housing being executive housing. These have been tested, in house by the Monitoring and Research Officer with the results found to demonstrate the same.”

As before lifts are being arranged to go to the Committee Meeting next Wednesday 11th Nov, please let me know if you can come and want to give a lift or have a lift. If you have already told me I will have put you on the list and, will contact to tell you who you are travelling with later this week. Tel:01239 821129 email rosmcgarry@aol.com

 

The Battle for the Beach-head is won . . . . now to Victory !

Yes – if you haven’t heard the news already, yesterday just when the sky looked darkest and about to fall on our heads, resounding victory – by 8 votes to 3.

Mrs Hayward 01Things started out glumly when two of the committee members who live closest to Newport and know the area well, decided they had a potential conflict of interest and would have to absent themselves entirely from the meeting, including not taking part in the vote. In the case of Ms.Gwynedd Hayward (Chair of the Committee) this was entirely understandable given where she lives, and given as she herself said she enjoyed a close personal relationship with some of the potential beneficiaries of the application.

Mike James01However, in the case of Cllr. Mike James (St.Dogmaels) Chair of the National Park Authority itself, his only potential conflict turned out to be that he is on the Board of Cymdeithas Tai Cantref, the local Housing Association in South Ceredigion & North Pembrokeshire (as a representative of Pembs County Council), which had expressed an interest – and nothing more – in possibly taking on the future management of the affordable housing component of the proposal were it to go ahead.

Yet in the view of Mr.Parsons the Authority’s Monitoring Officer– this was enough of a conflict of interest to justify Cllr Jame’s required absence from the meeting ? As if somehow Tai Cantref, a fully accredited residential social housing association, set up to help provide affordable homes for locals, are the equivalent of a corporate housing developer set to make a small fortune in profit, if the scheme were to go ahead ?

Cllr James who is only on the Board to represent the monitoring interests of Pembs County Council, we felt most understandably very reluctantly, complied and took no further part in the meeting. For the future we would strongly encourage Cllr. James – no matter what his views on the acceptability of this particular proposal are – to take independent advice on his position, or else it seems it puts in doubt his future ability to participate in either/both Tai Cantref and County & Park planning decisions at clear risk, which we think is quite ridiculous.

Carl SargentWe next heard from the Case Officer, Caroline Bowen, that a Welsh Government Civil Servant called Ms. Haskey acting for Karl Sargeant AM (Welsh Government – Planning Minister) had written to the Parks (see here) to say she had decided there was nothing in the case in her view of “more than merely local importance”, so that it was not worthy of a call-in procedure to be decided by a Welsh Planning Inspector instead..

She then read through her Case Report conclusions, giving we felt unwarranted especial emphasis to the clear minority of public letters sent in support of the proposal, as against the overwhelming many fold greater majority of correspondence, which was vehemently opposed. She never mentioned the Barrister’s Advice we’d supplied and glossed over the BDOG Petition, which Mike James had graciously accepted from us a few weeks ago, not even reading out the short petition terms.

When, however, the debate proper started the following are to be congratulated for their erudite and well informed contributions :

bob kilmisterCllr. Bob Kilmister (Dinas Cross)
Bob had clearly come very well informed and prepared. Whilst he very understandably wanted to emphasise his support for the need for more affordable housing in the Park, he was nothing short of excoriating about what he saw as the failings in the combined effect of poorly crafted Local Development Plan policies combined with belated Special Planning Guidance, which he felt made the Authority look “ridiculous”.

Ms Jane Gibson (Director of Park Direction – says is all really doesn’t it !) attempted – but failed miserably – to justify the interpretation which the Officers’ chose to put on their construction of the policies concerned. Bob also asked specifically about two important matters, viz.

(a) why did Annex 2 to the LDP say specifically 12 dwellings on this site ? to which Caroline Bowen just dismissed that as a mistake which can be ignored – despite the fact that it’s been there in black and white for the past 5 years un-amended ! and

(b) why had there been no mention of our (BDOG’s) legal advice – to which a Solicitor, brought in doubtless at great public expense from a private firm in Cardiff (Charles Felgate – Geldards) – said he was not willing to explain why in public, but they felt it was “flawed” !

 

Paul Harries 01Cllr. Paul Harries (Newport)
As the local member Paul was allowed to speak for the longest and gave a very thoughtful and balance opinion on the Newport’s needs for affordable housing for local people, versus the drawbacks of this particular proposal – with especial emphasis on density of over-development on this site, and its contribution to more open-market housing becoming more second homes in Newport in due course etc.

At the end of his intervention, however, he was still sitting firmly on his fence as to which way his “conscience” would finally let him come down. But by the time it came to the vote he did right and voted against the Recommendation – well done Paul.

David EllisMr. David Ellis (Rudbaxton – Appointee vice Chair of National Park)

David gave a most telling intervention in which he revealed that, after the official site visit, he had returned to Newport to once again appreciate the setting of the Site for himself. He spoke most eloquently as to how only on his return did he appreciate how the setting of the Church and Castle would be so badly diminished by this proposal. How the loss of trees and hedge-banks could never really be compensated for.

Especially appreciated, was how he said he came to view that small terraced housing is in fact the predominant vernacular in this locality, he thought that a small terrace built off Feidr Eglwys would be acceptable ; whilst, the proposed development of modern cul-de-sac was straight out of the mass developer’s handbook. Very well done and much appreciated Mr Ellis, any chance you could replace the existing Park’s Buildings Conservation Officer in the near future ?

Chris GwytherMs. Christine Gwyther (Pembroke Dock – Appointee,  ex -Labour AM)

Christine spoke very well about the obvious issues of “over development” on the site and appreciating why the density of development had been limited by the LDP Inspector. She seems to well appreciate how the houses would be built raised up as compared to the existing slope, and how unacceptable it was to segregate off the affordable housing into a small ghetto.

Mike Llew EvansCllr. Michael Llywelyn Evans (Tenby South)

Mike Evans spoke with passion about the need for greater provision in the Park for affordable housing for local people, especially the young, and stated his support for the proposed 14 affordable units. However, he was singularly unimpressed by the dramatic difference in layout as between what he described as the density for the “posh houses” as compared to that for the “poor peoples” houses.

Again he described the site as overall having too high a density for the setting, but said he would abstain on the vote because he just couldn’t bring himself to vote against 14 affordable units.

wilcox_tonyCllr Anthony Wilcox (Pembroke Dock Pennar )               

In the end the only member of the Committee willing to speak out in unqualified support for the Officer’s Recommendation was Tony Wilcox from Pennar. He seemed to say that in his understanding x25 of the proposed units would be for affordable housing, and nobody spoke up to question his figures or put him right. He was the member to propose that the Officer’s recommendation be adopted, which was for delegation to them for approval subject to a s.106 Agreement

Rob M LewisThings then started to take a surprising turn. The acting Chair (Cllr. Robert M Lewis – Martletwy & Deputy Leader PCC) in Ms. Hayward’s absence , called for anyone to support Cllr Wilcox’s motion. None came the deafening answer. But instead of then saying the motion falls for lack of a “seconder”, he pipes up says “ok well then as Chair I’ll second the motion myself instead” ( ! ) and went on to immediately put the motion to a vote. Cllr. Lewis certainly seems to have a most peculiar notion as to the duties of a Committee Chair ? Must be all that time he’s spent in the PCC Cabinet no doubt !

Fortunately, when put to the vote we saw only one other person (Mr Ted Sangster – Appointee – Spittal) willing to support the motion and so it fell flat on its face when at least seven others immediately thereafter voted against it.

Next, as much as the Officers and the Chair couldn’t quite seem to bring themselves to believe it, it was asked if anyone would propose a motion to reject the Officer’s Recommendation and refuse the application. Cllr. Kilmister immediately popped up to propose, followed closely by Christine Gwyther who was happy to second the motion, just ahead of Mr.Ellis who also had his hand up.

We were just about to move to the vote when the Monitoring Officer (Mr Parsons) and the Solicitor (Mr Davies) got all agitated and started saying no you can’t just take a vote now. Mr Parson’s then launched into a 5mins + speech about how, back in November last year, the Authority had voted to adopt an elaborate procedure to be followed, whenever Members were “minded” to vote on a planning application against the recommendation of their own Officers – it even has its own name “the cooling-off” period – which is exactly what it sounds like – a nanny parental figure attempting to control the over passionate instincts of an impulsive teenager, given to making incautious purchases which are want to be returned before the end of two weeks is up. Patronising or what ?

Alas, this procedure is such a rigmarole, clearly designed to make it as difficult as possible for the Members to vote their conscience against the wishes of their Officers, I’ll have to set it out separately (‘click here’) in full. So under this new procedure first of all the Members had to cite their own planning grounds for refusing the Application. Cllrs. Kilmister.(Dinas) & Harries (Newport) together with Appointees Mr Ellis and Ms Gwyther, had little or no difficulty in running quite a long list of different pertinent policies right off the bat, as Mr Liam Jones (Development Management Officer – for the time being at least, on his way out to Swansea way apparently) had to concede.

The matter was then put to the vote on the basis that the Committee was being asked if it was “minded” to refuse planning permission against the advice of its Officers. The result, bless ‘em, was an even stronger position than before – 8 in favour and 3 against – our record of what we could see as to how they voted is set out “here

So under this new procedure it now means that the Officers get to prepare yet a further Report, to bring back to Committee (next meeting is on 11th November) setting out once again why they think the grounds given by the Members don’t wash in their “professional view” and why instead they ought to do the “right” thing a follow their Officers’ advice instead . Members will then be required to vote once again. If, however, as we naturally hope will be the case, the motion is again put to vote against the Officers’ advice, once again the Members will need to offer their own planning grounds for doing so and yet again (now for the third time) Officers will get to say in response whether or not they consider them to be “valid” planning grounds for refusing the application or not.

Finally, before eventually being allowed to take the final vote “Members will be made aware if the circumstances mean that officers would not be able to defend the Authority’s decision on appeal on the basis that to do so would conflict with their professional code of conduct.“ In the event that such an appeal takes place “it will be usual for the proposer and seconder of the motion to defend the Authority’s decision and / or act as its main witnesses, supported by officers / consultants / legal experts as necessary.” Amazing ! The Officers have a professional Code of Conduct which says they can continue to get paid even for refusing to do their jobs and represent the considered decisions of their political supposed masters ?

Accordingly, you now can hopefully appreciated why we said at the outset that whilst we’ve won the main battle, that in olden days (of just this time last year) would have been enough to win the planning refusal – now instead the battle goes on, and we must all do what we can between now and 11th Nov to ensure that at least the x8 Committee Members who were with us yesterday, continue to stand firm. Still let’s take a small breather, summon up the old “Dunkirk Spirit”, be happy that we’ve secured the Normandy Beach-heads and press on to final victory – Victory or Bust !

on to victory board

Tomorrow is D-Day

Tomorrow is D-Day.

As in “D” for “Decision” Day. Tomorrow the Development Management Committee of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority will meet at the Parks Headquarters in Llanion West, Pembroke Dock to decide finally and at long last on this Application. The meeting begins at 10 am sharp and we will need as many supporters there as we can muster to demonstrate the strength of feeling in our fair community against this ghastly proposal. Even at this 11th hour if you need help with a lift contact Ros, details under Contact here.

It goes without saying that obviously we were all more than disappointed by the Development Management Officer’s Report last Friday week, and his extraordinary recommendation, namely to delegate authority to officer’s for approval, subject only to a successful negotiation on a s.106 planning obligation agreement. However, that said we are in truth not merely shocked by what these Officers have said, but equally aghast at what they have omitted to say. In response, we have prepared a detailed critique of this Report (“click here”), setting out in some detail the principal and major aspects whereby we find it demonstrates clear errors, omissions and obfuscations. Also, for convenience of those of you may accidentally on purpose bump into a Committee Member tomorrow there is also a one page summary here.

Newport residents and long-standing visitors alike call upon the elected and appointed representatives of the people to preserve, protect and defend the natural beauty and enjoyment of the Park through respect for the Local Development Plan its proper and lawful review and revision.

Newport expects each Park Committee Member to do their duty – uphold the policies and provisions of the democratically produced Plan – and refuse this monstrous proposal.

Critique of Officer’s Report

Errors, omissions and obfuscations in the Officer’s Report.

Development Management Case Officer
Summary
p.19 §2

• Officer states that LDP allocation is for 20 dwellings. She fails to so much as even mention limitation of only 12 dwellings on this site, as appears in LDP Appendix 2, even though advised by Park Direction Officer, by memo, that she admitted failure to “correct” this statement of a far lower limit was an ‘error’.

• Legal significance of the Authority’s “failure” to correct this alleged “error”, and the fact of the continuing reference in the LDP to a limit of only 12 dwellings on the site in Appendix 2, has been the subject of a full Counsel’s Legal Opinion provided by BDOG to the Authority as long ago as 22nd April. BDOG statement that failure to take note of and act upon this advice will inevitably lead to court action in response has simply been completely ignored in Report !

Parks Direction Officer
p.20 Head 2

• Officer, as above with Case Officer, refers only to figure of 20 dwellings in Table 7 in the LDP and completely omits to even mention lower figure of 12 dwellings as appearing in Appendix 2 instead. Also fails to mention legal advice sent to Authority on this point as to its significance.

• Officer also now cites figure of 40% as relevant commitment to affordable housing proportion, as recommended in Supplementary Planning Guidance, and omits to even mention the existence of figure of 70% as stated in LDP Policy 45 instead. Once again this issue was made subject of Counsel’s further advice as to whether or not Members were at liberty to regard lower SPG figure as a “material planning consideration”, which he found they were not. Once again even the existence of counsel’s advice has been completely omitted from Officer’s Report.

• Officer obscures and glides over the fact that, notwithstanding this development has been subject of 2-3 years worth of pre-application consultation and a further 6 months delay post application submission – there is as yet still no actual “viability assessment” completed for the exact housing mix currently sought !

Buildings Conservation Officer
p.20 Head 3 §1

Whilst, the Officer stipulates to the fact that :

“The listed buildings of the town are scattered across the settlement, forming part of the “grain” of the streetscape with the exception of the major accents of the castle and church. The latter will both remain as such, albeit with lesser views from the East – the main panoramic views from the south (downhill) and North (from the Parrog with Carningli as the backdrop) will retain both buildings as landmarks.”

(emphasis added)

• Consequently he clearly therefore accepts that the proposed development would at the least “affect the setting of the listed building(s)” concerned, namely the castle and church – he, nonetheless, fails to mention that he did not then require the application to be publicised in a local paper for that purpose, pursuant to the provisions of s.67 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – thereby bringing the Authority into breach of its statutory duty.

p.20 Head 3 §2

• Officer further states as follows :

“impact on the setting of the adjacent conservation area/its character and appearance. The setting of a CA is not a material consideration (character and appearance only so when considering development within CA boundaries).”

Planning Policy Wales Edition 7 – July 2014 –
Chapter 6 Conserving the Historic Environment

“6.5.17 Should any proposed development conflict with the objective of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area, or its setting, there will be a strong presumption against the grant of planning permission. In exceptional cases the presumption may be overridden in favour of development deemed desirable on the grounds of some other public interest.”

(emphasis added)

PCC Transport & Environment
p.20 bottom Head 4

• No mention whatever of the prior recommendation by PCC Highways, at the time of the commentary on the LDP pre-Deposit Plan, that the site should be limited to 20 dwellings only, and access achieved off Feidr Eglyws instead, and only after setting entire hedge-bank back by a distance of 1.5m.

• This failure is now subject of a formal complaint to the Welsh Public Services Ombudsman for deliberate misinformation re public enquiry. Again no mention.

Natural Resources Wales
p.22 Head 1

• Officer describes this Consultee as “supporting” , whereas in point of fact having been originally “opposed” they have now been merely persuaded to provisional withdraw their objection, subject to further late promises on amendment to plans (drawing 25) to cater to habitats of EU protected species dormice and horse-shoe bats.
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water
p.22 Head 3 §2

• It is reported that regarding “water supply.:” this consultee “Has no objection to the proposed development”, Whereas, in reality, as recently as 26 July to 2013, Mr.Owain George (Lead Development Control Officer – Dwr Cymru Welsh Water) wrote to the Applicant’s Agent as follows :

“The proposed development is an area where there are water supply problems for which there are no improvements planned within our current Capital Investment Programme AMP S (years 2010 to 2015). In order to establish what would be required to serve the site with an adequate water supply, it will be necessary for the developer to fund the undertaking of a hydraulic modelling assessment on the water supply network.”

We are aware that the Developer chose not to pay the sum of £7,844.66 subsequently set by DC/WW for the said Assessment and that therefore no such Assessment has been performed. When BDOG subsequently wrote to Senior Management at DC/WW to point out this inconsistency, the relevant officer wrote instead to the Authority’s Case Officer (29 July) seeking information as to deadline for consultee submission, as they were investigating the issue which we had raised. We are yet to hear back from DC/WW and, so far as we know, so too is the Authority.

Trunk Road Agency (TRA)
p.23 Head 2

• Officer’s Report states that WG TRA originally required a Transport Statement only to be provided which is incorrect. As later acknowledged (see @ §3 on p.35 of Report under ‘Access & Parking’) a full Transport Assessment was in fact sought by the Welsh Government Transport Division Route Engineer (see his letter of 16 June), which it then states was then provided by the Applicant. This again is incorrect. Instead, the Applicant’s Transport Agent (Acstro Ltd) stated in its Transport Statement (see at §1.6 on p.2) that, having regard to the terms of the Table (at D.4 p.50) in TAN 18, they felt that “a comprehensive TA is unnecessary and cannot be justified.” Hence, their decision to submit just a Transport Statement instead.

However, neither party appears to have recognised nor referred to the fact that TAN18 (see @ §D.3 on p.49) specifically permits and encourages LPAs in their LDP to set their own threshold conditions for requiring TAs in place of TSs to accompany planning applications, and that the PCNPA has indeed done so, as follows :
PCNPA LDP pp.87-88

“Policy 53 Impacts of Traffic
Development will be permitted where appropriate access can be achieved.
Instances where access will be considered to be inappropriate are

a) traffic is likely to generate an unacceptable impact on congested areas
or at times of peak traffic flows; or
, , , ,
c) where there is an unacceptable impact on road safety; or
d) where significant environmental damage would be caused and cannot be mitigated

4.240 This policy follows the National Planning Policy set out in Technical Advice Note 18 but sets the criteria for assessment to levels more relevant to the level of development occurring in the National Park. All applicants will be required to complete a short transport statement detailing the likely number of trips their proposed development would generate and the likely modal share.

4.241 More detail will be required for those developments meeting any of the following:

• Residential developments of 25 units or more: or
. . . .

4.242 A full Transport Assessment will be required for any proposals likely to have significant trip generation or where the National Park Authority has significant concerns about the possible transport impact of the proposed development.”

(emphasis added)

• Clearly, the scale of this proposed development (35 dwellings) greatly exceeds the threshold as set out at bullet-point 1 in §4.241 (as above) and thus should have, at the very least, required a more detailed submission from the Applicant, if nothing else. Whether or not the Case Officer regards the “trip generation” estimates produced by the Applicant’s Agent (Acsrto) – which was for 160 daily excess Trip Rates to be generated just at peak times (see @ Table 5.1 §5.4 on p.12 of Acstro TS) – as comprising “a significant” figure, as per §4.242 above, and thus demanding a full TA, is unknown as the Officer says nothing about the point whatsoever, and yet again has apparently simply ignored it.

Case Officer
Principle of Development
p.28 Head 2 (Meeting General Housing Need)

• The Officer baldly states that Policy 44

“… advises of a requirement for a minimum density of 30 dwellings per hectare for housing development in Centres. In this instance, the application site is subject of a housing allocation (HA825: North of Feidr Eglwys) which states allocation of 20 dwellings.”

However, she fails to state that a) Policy 44 goes on immediately to state that the ‘30 dwellings per hectare requirement’ is applicable only “… in Centres where this is compatible with the character of the Centre”; and b) that the LDP Inspector must be taken to have been fully aware of this provision when he recommended the limitation of 20 dwellings on this site instead, which limitation was then set out in Table 7 on Housing Allocations in the Plan.

• Instead she goes on to state as follows:

“The most recent planning performance figures for the period July 2014 June 2015 produced by the Welsh Government, demonstrate that the current housing land supply in the National Park is below the Welsh target, the at 2.7 years set against a target of 4 years supply. As such the proposals, seek to provide additional housing, particularly within Centre location such as this proposal, need to be carefully considered.”

However, what she fails to mention is that Welsh Government planning guidance clearly sets out that, where a local planning authority is failing to meet its housing supply targets, possibly through overly restrictive provisions in its Local Development Plan, then the solution is to seek the statutory review of those plan provisions, leading, where needs be proven, to their revision according to law (s.70 of the 2003).

See 7th. Edition of Planning Policy Wales (July 2014)

“2.1.6Local planning authorities are required to make an annual monitoring report on their LDP. The annual monitoring report will identify any policy that is not being implemented, together with the steps the authority intends to take to secure implementation. Annual monitoring and regular review are mandatory .
. . . .
2.7.2 It is for the decision-maker, in the first instance, to determine through review of the development plan (see 2.1.6) whether policies in an adopted development plan are out of date or have been superseded by other material considerations for the purposes of making a decision on an individual planning application”

(emphasis added)

The Town and Country Planning (Local Development Plan) (Wales) Regulations 2005 require at r.41. that :

“An LPA must commence a full review of its LDP every four years from the date of its initial adoption, in accordance with regulation 3(1).”

The PCNPA LDP was adopted on 29th September 2010 so that the formal statutory review, as required by law, should have commenced on 28 Sept last year 2014. We are only aware of an invitation to attend a preliminary meeting sometime later this month together with the Newport Town Council, to discuss ways forward to a full review next year 2016.Namely, considerably more than a full year late.

Inevitably, it appears that the Authority’s wanton failure to comply with its statutory duties to review its LDP in a timely fashion, is in effect now being used as a disgraceful excuse for recommending approval of this current massive departure proposal, on the premise that the existing provisions are now so out-of-date, and incapable of meeting the current WG targets for housing supply. However, whether a Planning Inspector would concur that this state of affairs justifies now dropping the previous LDP Inspector’s cap on numbers of units on this particular allocation site, is simply unknown. What possible point would there be in our engaging with the LDP Review procedure, and seeking to put our case before such an Inspector next year, if this development proposal is instead now given planning consent today ?

Principle of Development
p.29 §3 (Meeting Affordable Housing Need)

• The Officer states wrt Policy 45

“Policy 45, supported by Supplementary Planning Guidance on Affordable Housing (which updates the affordable housing requirements on allocated sites) seeks a provision of 40% affordable housing. The applicant has designed the development to provide the required percentage of affordable housing, . . . The applicant has provided written confirmation of an offer of interest from Cymdaithas Tai Cantref in providing the affordable housing, but has also indicated that discussions are taking place with a number of Registered Social Landlords.”

As the Officer well knows Policy 45 of the 2010 LDP actually states unequivocally that a 70% proportion of housing to affordable needs, is the policy commitment here in Newport as therein set out. The notion that this is “supported” by the subsequent recommendations, as set out in the so-called Supplementary Planning Guidance, secured through a private-sector Cardiff-based planning consultancy, and never tested by examination-in-public before a Welsh Planning Inspector, is nothing short of risible. That private sector guidance is instead quite simply intended to supplant, the existing policy commitment and that is precisely what it does. In so doing, as fully set out and reasoned in our second Counsel’s legal opinion, again not so much as even mentioned by your Officer, you are being advised to act in clear and manifest breach of well established WG planning policy guidance

Wales Technical Advice Note (TAN) #2
(Planning and Affordable Housing) 2006

“14.2 …. The conclusions of the JHLA (Joint Housing Land Availability) study must be incorporated into the development plan Annual Monitoring Report (AMR).
14.3 Where the AMR indicates that the affordability of housing has changed, or the development plan affordable housing target will not be met, the local planning authority should consider whether to review or revise the plan. Appropriate responses may include amending the mix of affordable housing policies or increasing/reducing the level of affordable housing to be secured on allocated and windfall sites.”

In practice there is precious little enough left in the planning procedure which even attempts to nod toward a democratic accountability and public involvement, however, one essential element is the ‘right’ of the public to have its day before a Planning Inspector and argue what it believes should be in the Local Development Plan. The attitude and process now advocated by your Officers, would seek to remove even this last vestige of democratic accountability and public involvement.

Principle of Development
p.31 §5 (Landscape Preservation)

• The Officer comments that :

“It is considered that the proposed development has taken into account the emphasis placed on the existing landscaping, and seeks to retain and strengthen the existing hedgerow boundaries and mature trees on the site it is demonstrated that the increased density can still be satisfactorily assimilated and whilst emphasis has been placed on the requirement to limit the density in order to reduce the visual and visual impact of development, it is considered from the plan submitted that the development of the site would not result in a cramped layout or a form of development that is incompatible to the Centre.”

(emphasis added)

The proposed development actually contemplates the complete destruction and removal of more than 80m of ancient Pembrokeshire hedgerow and holloway, in order to create at least three separate site access junctions and visibility splays (one off Feidr Bentinck and two off Feidr Eglwys). Where the LDP Inspector spoke to only a single access off Feidr Eglwys and which would require preserving the hedge bank by moving the whole thing back 1.5m in place of such large visibility splays. The proposed density of layout is at least three times greater, if not more, than the existing density of surrounding dwellings; and has the classic, formal cul-de-sac development best attributed to the cultural influence of Mr Barrett and his back catalogue of the estate building. This part of the Officer’s appraisal is perverse.

Landscaping
p.35 Head 1 (Mature Trees and Hedgerows)

• What the Officer fails to mention in all of her fawning praise of the Applicant’s efforts at mitigation and preservation, is the fact that in his original application, and until compelled to submit a fully revised Site Plan just last month, he had not disclosed in any of the documentation accompanying his application, the true extent of the visibility splays he was required to create by PCC Highways and the extensive loss of hedgerow that will ensue (80m+), nor the further loss of mature trees, such as the stand of ashes opposite Dan-y-Mynydd. To obtain a true and fair appraisal of this Applicant’s arboricidal tendencies, ask your Trees Officer to relate the varied and many complaints he has recently received regarding hedge-bank and tree destruction undertaken at this Applicant’s instruction, just prior to your site-visit in late August, just so as to make the surrounding lanes appear as wide as possible !

Amenity – Physical and visual
p.36 Head 2 (Visual amenity)

•The Officer comments that :

“The proposed development is residential in its entirety, and is compatible with the existing residential setting which borders the site to the North, South and partially to the East. The development is considered to respect the existing landscape characteristics and features as the built forms are positioned amongst the retained field boundaries and mature trees, which retains a semirural appearance, and does not appear cramped and crowded in physical or visual terms. Whilst the development has required the construction of two new access points, necessitating the removal of two sections of existing hedgerow, the remaining hedgerows are strong enough to retain the appearance of the natural site boundaries,”

Compare this assessment of the impact of residential development on the physical and visual amenity of the site, with that offered by the JUDP Planning Inspector in his Report in 2005 (§9.66.7 on p.423 Part II – Settlements) commenting on precisely the same location, albeit the proposal was then for only the southernmost field bounded by Feidr Eglwys and Feidr Bentinck without stretching as far as the rear of Goat Street as well, as follows :

“This site comprises an open field conspicuously located at the main entrance to Newport from the east; while bounded by roads on 2 sides with housing and other built development beyond, this land is best related to the stretch of generally open countryside which extends around this part of the settlement. The development of this site would represent the spread of the built up area into these predominantly rural surroundings with consequent serious environmental impact. Accordingly I am not recommending this series of proposed changes..”

How, you may well imagine, can they possibly be talking about the same site ? The old Pembrokeshire developer’s adage – wait long enough, employ the ‘right’ agent, make enough promises and in time . . . .

Case Officer’s Conclusions
pp. 38 – 39

• The Officer concludes that :

“… 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.”

(emphasis added)

“previously unforeseen opportunity” ? For heaven’s sake the site in question is an housing allocation within the LDP (2010) ! Candidly, the only aspect of this debacle that was ‘previously unforeseen’ was the utter contempt and disregard with which this Authority’s senior Planning Officers appear to be willing to treat the terms and condition, restrictions and limitations as set out in clear-cut plain language in its own Local Development Plan.

In turn in our conclusion, and taking into consideration all of the above cited many inaccuracies, falsehoods, defects, deficiencies and obfuscations, in our view this Report , most regrettably, is a bias, partial, incomplete and wholly misleading analysis of the pertinent planning policies, perspectives and legal planning principles which instead ought to be applied to this application.

For and on behalf of the Bentinck Development Opposition Group
BDOG

 

Bad News ! – Park’s Planning Officer’s Report is out (18th September)

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.”

(emphasis added)

“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% !

National Parks Meeting Wednesday 30thSept Pembroke Dock

Tegryn Jones Chief Executive PCNPA has informed us that the Planning Application will be considered at the next meeting of the Park’s Development Management Committee on Wednesday,  30th. September. We have just 2 weeks to organise ourselves. It is important we get a good turnout for this meeting.

We have still got the placards from the petition hand in but, please feel free to do your own if you wish. We plan to car share so, I would be grateful if you could let me know as soon as possible if you can come, so that I can arrange the car spaces. We need to leave Newport at 8.30 am. We plan to address the committee at the meeting and we are waiting to hear how many speakers we are allowed.Mr Tegryn Jones also said that Mr Liam Jones’s (Planning Officer) Report on the application, including also his  recommendation to approve or refuse, will be out this Friday (18th September).

Unfortunately a few of our core group are unable to attend, but will be very much with us in spirit. To book a space in a car or offer a lift please phone me 01239 821129 or email rosmcgarry@aol.com

Finally, also this coming Friday the 18th September, Paul Davies AM is holding a constituency surgery in the Eco Centre, Loer St.Mary’s Street between 5-7pm. I have booked an appointment at 5.40pm to represent BDOG. If anyone wishes to accompany me to speak to him please get in touch. It would also be good if a representative group could turn up if only for 15 mins, at about 5:15 pm so that we could get a photo and hopefully get it in the newspaper.

Site Visit 24th August

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.

 

Developer Gets their own Transport Statement !

Back in late April, when we first had sght of the 2-3pp ‘formulaic’ formal Planning Assessment Report, submitted by Mssrs. Benger & Harris of the PCC Highways Authority to the National Parks, recommending nothing more than a few standard highways conditions be attached to any futre planning permission – and equally utterly ignoring and avoiding their previous stated position at the time of their earlier submission during the evolution of the PCNPA-LDP process – we determined to raise the funds to produce our own independent  Transport Statement (Van Weber Report -14 July 2015), written by a local highways expert – Karl von Weber.

In now seems that in so doing we were either not alone, or more likely setting a trend ! As it has now been revealed, at this most belated date (the NPA website says this doc was only submitted on 6th August last), that the Developer themselves (note not their Planning Agent – but rather “Bentinck Developments Inc.” itself) has now commissioned and submitted its own “Transport Statement” (Acstro Transport Statement (July 2015) , from a firm called “Acstro” of Llanelli !

Needless to say it comes to diametrically opposite conclusions, as follows:

“6.2 In summary, this report has demonstrated the following:

 The site is in a sustainable and accessible location. Town centre facilities are within easy walking and cycling distance;

 The streets surrounding the site are lightly trafficked and surveys have established that speeds are low. The nature of these streets are self-policing and encourage slow and careful driving. The streets have an unblemished safety record;

 The site is well positioned to take advantage of the excellent community facilities offered by the local area;

 There are genuine modal alternatives to the use of the private car available to proposed residents;

 The site will generate a minimal level of additional traffic flow with up to 20 peak hour vehicle trips estimated as a total. This estimate is based on all of the 35 units having the trip generation patterns of open market homes. However, a significant proportion of the development (14 homes) will be affordable units that would be expected to have a lower traffic generation than open market housing. The assessment is therefore robust.

 The location of the site affords potential residents with a number of valid routing options for joining both the local and strategic network;

 Due to the street layout and that of the proposed development, traffic will be quickly dissipated as it travels in different directions. It is estimated that development traffic will account for up to 6 additional peak hour movements on any of the streets leading to/from the development site;

 The proposed development will deliver improvements to the highway network in the form of the improvement of the Feidr Eglwys / Feidr Bentick junction.

 The County Highway Authority has raised no objection to the proposal.

6.3 It is concluded that the site is suitable for the development of 35 residential units and that there are no transportation reasons as to why the site should not be developed as proposed.”

Hopefully the Members of the National Park’s Development Management Committee, whom we presume are going to agree at their meeting tomorrow (12th August), to arrange for an official  site visit on the following Mon. 24th August next, will be able to see through all this subtefuge and gamesmanship – and make their own independent assessment, with their own eyes. Further news about this site visit will follow nearer the time.

 

SUBMISSION of PETITION & NEWS of a SITE VISIT

SUBMISSION of PETITION

A great big thank you goes out to all our supporters who turned out yesterday to make such a tremendous success of the “Submission of Petition” event. We were joined by around 40 objectors, who walked the narrow lanes and byways, surrounding the proposed development site, starting and finishing at the Friend’s Garden at the top of Market Street. We stopped at the field gate halfway along Feidr Eglwys, at the top end of the site, only to discover a  vocal member of the owner’s family, sat in his big Range Rover blocking the entrance – and indeed even videoing us from behind his tinted windshield !

photos below

We then proceeded around into Feidr Bentinck and into Goat Street before returning to the Friend’s Garden. Next we  walked down to the National Park Tourist Information Centre , in Long Street, where we were met by Cllr. Mike James, Chairman of the Authority, who was kind enough to formally accept receipt of our Petition. He was accompanied by Cllr. Elaine Lloyd, vice-Chair of Newport Town Council.

Our co-ordinator, Ros, explained that even though only gathered in recent weeks and months on a local basis, nonetheless the petition contained more than 300 signatories more than 88% of whom were locals. Thankfully the weather stayed fine all day and generally the feedback has been that it was a very worthwhile, informative and timely event.

——————————————————–
NEWS of SITE VISIT

When we got back to our computer screens after yesterday’s event, it was to discover that the National Park’s Development Management Officer’s Report on the application had already been published on their website for consideration at the forthcoming Committee Meeting on 12th August ! However, on further examination it was revealed that he was currently only prepared to Recommend that the Committee should indeed, as we have been calling for, make a formal site visit here to examine the features of the proposed development site for themselves. It is anticipated that this will now take place on the next date after the meeting allocated for such visits – which is the following Monday, August 24th.

The Core Group are of the view, therefore, that whilst this means there is no longer any need to attend the Committee Meeting itself (on the 12th), we should nonetheless ask supporters once again to turn out in numbers and be “present” at the site visit, if only to demonstrate to the Committee Members the strength of local opposition to the proposal.

However, please note that it is a supposedly ‘strict’ rule, on the occasion of these ‘site visits’ that people do not enter into any discussion or debate with Committee Members regarding the merits or otherwise of the proposal. If our supporters were to ignore this etiquette, then it is far more likely we would displease and dissuade members from our point of view than the converse. We will try to keep people informed through this site and elsewhere as to the timing of this visit as soon as we ourselves are aware of it.

Finally, the next earliest following meeting of the full Committee itself thereafter, down in Pembroke Dock, at which it could then actually debate and determine this application, is not until Wednesday 30th of September. So put that date in your diaries even now!

click on photos to enlarge

image77 image33 image55

Stop the largest development in Newport for decades