Sunday 4 September 2016

No new jobs for Whitland

It's a funny old world. This blog, which not so long ago hoped fervently that Carmarthenshire's Local Development Plan (LDP) would be derailed and sent back to the drawing board, now finds itself defending the LDP beast, while two Labour councillors, Anthony Jones and Terry Davies, who until recently were Stalinist adherents of planning orthodoxy, are busy trying to undermine the plan they voted to adopt.

Even stranger, Cneifiwr finds himself agreeing with Kevin Madge, now consigned to the back benches and the planning committee, who appears to be embroiled once again in one of those interminable and unfathomable fratricidal vendettas engulfing the Labour Party, or rather the three Labour Parties which now seem to exist in Carmarthenshire.

Last week the council's planning committee considered an application (W/33572) to build 28 houses on part of the old creamery site in the middle of Whitland. The officer's report, which recommended rejection, can be found here.

Although the site is on a flood plain, with Natural Resources Wales warning that a proposed elevated road would increase the risk of flooding, the primary reason for the recommendation to reject was that the site was earmarked under the Local Development Plan (LDP) for employment, and not housing.

In Whitland, as elsewhere in the county, there is no shortage of sites earmarked for housing development under the LDP. Far, far too many of them, in fact, with provision for new housing under the plan way in excess of any likely local need or likely population growth.

Some of those sites have languished for years and even decades on the council's master plans without ever a brick being laid.

The truth is that Local Development Plans, and not just the Carmarthenshire version, are really developers' charters given a thin veneer of local democracy which licence housebuilders to build new estates if and when they think they can turn a profit.

If you were to ask the public what we need most, it would not be huge new developments of executive housing at Ffos Las, but new employment opportunities and social housing.

As it happens, the old creamery site in Whitland is the only site left under the LDP which was reserved for factories, workshops and business use.

So when members of the planning committee voted 8 to 6 to accept the application and reject planning officers' advice, they opted for houses rather than jobs.

The vote has ramifications far beyond Whitland, however, because a precedent has been set which could see land not designated for housing suddenly given the green light for new residential development wherever and whenever a developer spots an opportunity.

Under the rules, the planning committee will soon be asked to take a second look at the application. If members confirm last week's decision, they will have driven a coach and horses through what little protection we have in this county from the unbridled greed of speculators and big bucks developers.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What is needed is a complete overhaul of the planning system with only the most intelligent ethical members on the planning committee. What hope is there when the planning rules and regulations are abused by certain members of the public and then supported by officers. How can one person be made to apply for planning permission and change of use to equine for a few horses, and another person can run a large commercial equine busines, without change of use and avoid paying business rates to boot??
How can we have any faith in this council's planning department when possible fraud is ignored amongst other things within planning? Cicilian cartel is a perfect description of this council's conduct.

Anonymous said...

Surely a site that has been empty for 20 years and is an eyesore is it not better to have houses for people to regenerate Whitland - keep the schools

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@15.38 I appreciate that it's an eyesore, but as I say, the risk is that a decision to tear up that part of the LDP opens up the way for developers to do the same anywhere else, and if they are refused, they could well take the council to court pointing out inconsistency in the way the council is applying policy.

In the Herald article Alun Lenny, the chair of the planning committee, argues for a wide ranging review of the situation in Whitland, including the fact that a large chunk of the site is in planning limbo land.

The LDP is not due to be reviewed until 2019 (I think), but there are plenty of other compelling reasons why the review should be brought forward.

The best approach is for councillors and members of the public who are concerned about the operation of the LDP to push for an early review.

Anonymous said...

Yet another application that is initially refused under delegated powers then resubmitted and called in to committee by the local member and duly passed against officer’s recommendation.

One of the main reasons given by both local members for supporting the application is that the site is an eyesore and has been for many years. So why didn’t they request that CCC remedy this by serving notice on the owner under s.215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990?

Members who voted this through rather naively seem to believe that Whitland Green Park Limited is champing at the bit to go ahead and build. Whereas the only certainty is that this permission has vastly increased the value of their site without them having to do anything and could well remain an eyesore well into the future.

As this is such a major departure from the LDP – adopted by councillors only 18 months ago – the head of planning will surely have no option but to refer it to WAG for call in.