Sunday 5 January 2014

It's just not cricket

Ammanford is passionate about its politics and sport. Put the two together, add a planning application into the mix, and you have a highly combustible recipe. That is exactly what we got when the cricket club submitted a planning application to erect practice nets on a piece of land occupied by one of four tennis courts. In addition to the four courts built at the end of the 1940s with the help of the Miners Welfare Club, there are two courts at nearby Betws and five more at the local secondary school.

The application came before the County Council's planning committee back in December, and after a lot of huffing and puffing, it was decided to defer a decision until after a site visit.

What had shocked and horrified Council Chair, Terry Davies (Lab), and Chair of the Planning Committee, Anthony Jones (Lab), was that planning officers had apparently failed to take into account the views of 400 or so people who had signed a petition against the cricket nets.

Prior to becoming Chair of Council, Terry Davies was a stalwart of the Planning Committee and formed part of an infamous double act with Keri Thomas (Lab). Keri and Terry often took a Judge Jeffreys approach to their quasi-judicial functions, seeking to dispatch planning applications with a minimum of fuss and discussion based on the officers' recommendations. On at least one occasion they had to be reminded that proposing and seconding acceptance of the officers' recommendations should wait until the case officer had had a chance to present his report.

Supporters of the cricket nets argued that the tennis courts were under-used, and that the town had no facilities to allow them to practice. They also pointed out that the petition was misleadingly worded as it gave the impression that the cricket club wanted to take away all the tennis courts rather than just one.

While Ammanford does not have a tennis club, it does have a very successful cricket club. In fact it is one of the best in South Wales and won the South Wales Premier Cricket League in 2012. It can also boast over 150 years of history and pre-dates the town of Ammanford itself.

Also worth noting is that the club was not asking the County Council for a penny, but was planning to finance the nets from its own funds and with a contribution from the EWCB.

But back to petitions. Anyone who has ever signed one in Carmarthenshire in recent years will be surprised to see anyone in a position of power in County Hall take any notice whatsoever.

After a group of elderly users of a day centre in Llandeilo exercised their right to deliver a petition to the Council Chair ("Independent" Ivor Jackson at the time) in a council meeting, the constitution was changed to give the chief executive discretionary powers to bypass the full council and send petitioners to the Executive Board instead.

The 2,579 people who signed a petition objecting to plans to close Ysgol Pantycelyn in Llandovery found that they were ignored, while two petitions with 800-900 signatures objecting to a controversial supermarket planning application in Newcastle Emlyn were swept quietly under the carpet. There are many more examples where those come from.

As seasoned campaigners know, petitions in planning cases are normally counted as a single objection, no matter how many people sign them, and with their years of experience of sitting on the planning committee, Terry Davies and Anthony Jones would both know that. Indeed, local opinion has rarely troubled either of them before.

One of the most recent and spectacular cases of disregard of local opinion was the eventual acceptance by the planning committee of plans to build almost 300 new homes on a site at Penybanc on the outskirts of Ammanford. Anthony Jones was chair of the Planning Committee at the time, but residents will not be able to recall him making a fuss about their petition.

All the more remarkable, then, that they should read in the South Wales Guardian about his theatrics at last week's meeting of the Planning Committee when the cricket nets application was finally decided.

Cllr Anthony Jones has not received much attention from this blog, but regular viewers of the council's monthly meetings will have noticed that he is Mr Angry. He does not say a great deal, but when he does he is generally livid about something or other.

Major developers sheltering in tax havens are unlikely to feel Mr Jones's wrath, but Joe Public and on this occasion the council's planning officers, can feel fortunate that his quasi-judicial powers as Chair of the Planning Committee do not include hanging or flogging.

And so it was that Ammanford Cricket Club's application was dismissed after Cllr Jones tore out the stumps and flounced off the pitch, leaving the usual coalition of Labour and Independent members to vote as one. The application was supported by the local councillor, Deian Harries (Plaid).

The club has issued a statement deploring the politicisation of the planning process and the actions of Cllr Jones. It is now considering an appeal.


Anna Mosity said...

1500 people signed a petition to retain the Island House as part of Llanelli's East Gate development, but CCC took no notice of that.

CCC decided it had to go because it "spoiled the vista of the new landmark building" (ie the back end of some restaurants, offices and a budget hotel).

Seems like only rugby gets the CCC approval...

Anonymous said...

Many miners support and play cricket Betws Colliery had
a Team people working for British Coal played for
Ammanford and Pontardulais.It was only one court
There would be Three left for Tennis.No wonder
Ammanford is going backwards with this lot in charge.

passerby said...

why cannot the cricket club revert to where the previous net was in the first place? plaid are a but confused here. they opposed the nets in the tennis court, now they support the nets.. come on!! if anyone is politicizing. not sure which side they are batting for ;-)

if the cricket club want nets and there is no room elsewhere in the park, why don't they just simply locate it or them over the rec 100yards away.

the courts belong to the miner's club which was donated to them.. non negotiable in that that respect. why should they cede it to them.. and the courts are not under use. that depends how it has been viewed, one day it'll be empty for 5 hours, then two may get used. the following day it maybe 3 used.. so unless the cricket club can come up with a full analysis of usage over the past ten years and not based on something akin to it wasn't used when i was there....

Cneifiwr said...

Why stop arbitrarily at 10 years, Passerby? Can we see the stats for February 1948 as well please?

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid,40+yrs. ago we used to play up the
School,or Betws park as the Courts where more Level.
What I can see it still looks the same maybe worst.

passerby said...

betws park is pants then as it is now.. nit sure what the school is like, wouldn't fancy running the risk of trespassing.
ammanford surface is good, was relaid. nets could do with a bit of tidying up.

there may not be cricket in the park anyway if a risk assessment goes ahead.. passersby getting hit by a four or a six.. someone walking by with a pushchair. or some 4 year old kid walking with parent catching an unfortunate one.

chances of it is slim, but some people walking past do get a bit agitated when a cricket match is on in fear of a ball coming towards them