Tuesday 2 April 2013

Penybanc - the UDP and LDP Hokey Cokey

Diweddariad 4 Ebrill

Bydd y stad newydd ym Mhenybanc yn un o bynciau Taro'r Post heddiw. Tybed, a fydd y Cyngor yn cymryd rhan?

(A lively discussion can be expected on today's edition of Taro'r Post, Radio Cymru's phone-in programme, when the Penybanc development comes up).


The battle over plans for a vast new housing development at Penybanc has come to an end, with several councillors performing a U-turn to approve the scheme despite very strong and near-unanimous opposition from local people and the reservations of various agencies consulted.

The developers, Guernsey-based Swallow Homes, amended its plan to build 336 homes on a site which extended beyond the boundary of the existing UDP, and has now been given permission to build 289 houses on a slightly reduced area of land.

Swallow originally sought and was given permission to build 141 homes on Tirychen Farm, but came to feel that it could pack in twice as many.

One of the strange aspects of this planning saga was the planning officers' logical acrobatics over differences between the county's existing Unitary Development Plan and the Local Development Plan which is due to replace it.

The existing UDP provided for a much lower density of housing. The planning officer's report says that the site was "part of an allocation for 150 new houses". The LDP, not yet in force, would have upped the allocation to 250 houses, and the planning officer argued this time round that the additional 39 houses were within tolerance levels.

In other words, the development has been scaled back to include land within the UDP, but has borrowed the allocation proposed in the LDP plus a whole chunk more.

The major concern expressed by councillors when they rejected the scheme back in December was the impact on the Welsh language. Back then the planners went to great lengths to dismiss the findings of two language impact assessments which concluded that the proposed development would have a negative impact on the language. Comments submitted by the now defunct Welsh Language Board came in for particular criticism.

The UDP stated that Supplementary Planning Guidance would be prepared to assist with the preparation and use of Linguistic Impact Assessments in the determination of planning applications.

Although the UDP was formally adopted in July 2006 and was several years in the making, the council has never got round to formulating any Supplementary Planning Guidance.

The proposed LDP, on the other hand, states that:

All developments will have regard to the needs and the interests of the Welsh language. Applicants will be expected to submit a Linguistic Impact Assessment or Statement as part of a planning application. Guidance for determining the effect of proposals on the Welsh language is contained within “Planning and the Welsh Language: The Way Ahead (2005)”. The document suggests that where 25% or more of the Community Council area speak Welsh then the language is part of the
social fabric. These areas are known as “linguistic sensitive areas”. More detailed guidance will be produced as SPG [Supplementary Planning Guidance, but don't hold your breath, ed.]

The planning officer's report for the 28 March meeting took a different tack. Instead of the lengthy explanations and arguments as to why the Welsh Language Board and Llandybie Community Council were wrong, the planning officers dismissed concerns about the language in a single paragraph:

With regard to the impact upon the Welsh Language, the site is allocated within the UDP as a housing site. As part of the UDP deliberations, approved by a Planning Inspector, these sites were subject to various tests and considerations, one of these being impact on the Welsh language. For the site to have been allocated, it would have been deemed that the impact upon the Welsh language would be acceptable to allow the consideration of the site as one allocated for housing development. As such, it is considered this initial reason for refusal would not stand up to scrutiny.

In other words, the plan forms part of the UDP (at least as far as the language is concerned), and any concerns would have been addressed while the UDP was being developed.
Strangely, though, the Head of Planning stated in his report to the meeting on 18 December that,

The site’s previous planing application and its current allocation in the UDP did not take this factor [the Welsh language, ed.] into account but the increase to the site’s allocation proposed by the LDP has.

At the most recent planning meeting the Head of Planning said that there was no provision for language impact assessments under the UDP, neglecting to remind councillors that this was because the council had never got around to formulating a policy. 

Currently the Welsh Government's main tool for the evaluation of impact on the Welsh language in planning policy is TAN20, a policy which is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. The previous Welsh Government recognised this, and consulted on an improved TAN20. Following the consultation, a draft TAN20 was issued in mid-2011, but it remains stuck in limbo as a draft and is not even available for public inspection on the Welsh Government's website.

Although very few people have copies of the 2011 document which is not actually in force, the Head of Planning told councillors that it prohibited the use of language impact assessments in individual planning applications.

Quite how he squares that with the wording of the "emerging" Local Development Plan would be an interesting question.

By now it is likely that any readers who have got this far will be thoroughly confused, and you have every right to be.

The Penybanc planning application is, in short, a part of the LDP or the UDP depending on what most suits the planning officers and the developers. Local democracy has once again been trashed and the planning process reduced to a farce, with local people finding the cards stacked against them.

We will have to wait for the minutes in the hope of seeing how individual councillors voted, but it seems that the council's "Independent" councillors did as they were told by the unelected officers, as they always do. Several Labour councillors who previously made a great deal of noise about standing up for their community appear to have caved in, while other members of Kev's army always supported Swallow Homes, which is comfortably ensconced in an offshore tax haven.

Opponents of the scheme in Penybanc and the surrounding area might like to consider taking legal advice because the tangled mess and logical somersaults performed by the planning officers would seem to invite Judicial Review.


Anonymous said...

You won't ind out who vote which way as the vote wasn't recorded. It was a majority vote.

Cneifiwr said...

Then I shall make enquiries. Some of the Labour councillors may have a lot of explaining to do to their electors.

Anonymous said...

Those who voted in favour of the development were Cllrs. Anthony Jones ( Labour),Ceri Thomas ( Labour)Kim Thomas ( Labour),Terry Davies ( Labour), Tom Theophilus ( Ind.), Man a Salem ( Ind),Ieuan Davies( Ind.) Whitland ( Ind)
Those who voted against were Cllrs. Alun Lenny (Plaid),Winston lemon (Plaid),Jeff Evans (Plaid),Emlyn Dole (Plaid),Tyssul Evans (Plaid), David Jenkins (Plaid), and Mansel Charles (Plaid)

Anonymous said...

Pleidlesiodd y cyngorwyr yma yn erbyn y cynllun yn y bleidlais ddiwethaf?

Anonymous said...

I thought planning was meant to be legally politically neutral. Funny how Councillors have voted uninimously along party lines. Can understand Plaid; thier members/councillors are logically inclined towards preserving the Welsh language so i can understand all of them voting against a planning application which seemingly damages the Welsh language.

What i cannot fathom as a group of "independents" all voting the same way every time.

Also, why is it that the same labour councillor always proposes to accept officers' recommendation and speaks passionately in taking officers' advice? What's the story there???

Cneifiwr said...

Anhysbys @20.52 Do, yn achos rhai ohonyn nhw.

Anonymous said...

This is a difficult one there is much media interest recently that the construction industry in the Amman valley is close to melt down. Why would the local councillors chose to award a multi million £ planning investment to a foreign corporation when the local boys are scraping for work to keep the local workforce in employment. Where are the occupants of these new homes going to find work around here and which of our overflowing schools are going to educate their children. With glangwili and morriston hospital both bragging about 6 hour A&E waiting times and llanelli being down graded to no A&E what happens if one of these households has an emergency. Are our planning experts and the councillors who support them convinced that Carmarthenshire has the required infrastructure to support these new families? Oh and another minor matter will the weak bridge on the nasty bend with no pavement be a safe place to put a new entrance into a building site and later on an entrance to a street of family homes?

Anonymous said...

Penybanc "Hokey Cokey" is why it is imperative that Cyneifiwr and Jaqui continue their blogs exposing all that is rotten in CCC.

Anonymous said...

Who on earth are these developers? Do they have an alias?

Efrogwr said...

Very depressing. I suppose for some of these Labour and Ind. councillors, undermining the Welsh language a benefit of the development.

Anonymous said...

If that planning application went to the assembly it would be passed anyway. Am i totally missing the point here or is it people have no clue about applications.

Tessa said...

Do these developments get so easily approved because of the New Homes Bonus Scheme?
"The bonus is paid to local authorities for every home added to their council tax register, minus any homes that have been demolished. Whitehall matches the additional council tax from new homes until 2016/17. Both new build homes and empty properties brought back into use qualify for the funding."
I don't know what there was prior to this, but I believe there has been some encouragement to councils to ensure new homes built. This will explain why large and bonkers developments get easily approved, but individuals wanting to do something minor have to jump through hoops and get refused anyway.
Anyway, the cash will be handy, what with the cost of our chief exec which will surely run into millions from Carmarthenshire's coffers.

Anonymous said...

Surely the AM & MP will want to " call this application " in ,keen as they are on planning applications

Anonymous said...

Welfare and the Welsh language?

Or, welfare or the language?

Tough times, tough choices.