Saturday, 3 September 2011

Wrecsam councillors tell National Trust to get house in order



The National Trust has yet again come under fire for hypocrisy over its plans to build a new luxury village on the Erddig estate in Wrecsam. In a front page article in today’s Times newspaper, the Trust has blasted UK government plans to relax planning laws which will allow development on green belt in England, saying “unchecked and damaging development will blight the English countryside”. The newspaper highlighted the Erddig development in Wales to demonstrate the organisations hypocritical behaviour over the issue.

The National Trust is now spearheading a campaign to protect the English countryside from the UK government’s proposed planning changes in its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The National Trust gained planning permission for its new village of 223 houses on green field in Rhostyllen, Wrecsam back in 2008. The plans met fierce opposition from local campaigners who held a referendum demonstrating local people in Rhostyllen were against the plans 2:1. The Trust also came under heavy criticism after the development was advertised to potential buyers as being in Rhostyllen ‘Cheshire’, reinforcing campaigner’s assertions that the planned village was clearly aimed at commuters and not based on local need. Campaigners maintain the development, not yet built, was part of the controversial West Cheshire Plan, which aims to build over 20,000 houses across north east Wales.

The ‘Not on Erddig’ campaign went on to make headlines across the UK after forcing a vote of National Trust members on the proposals at the Trust's 2008 Annual General meeting in Liverpool. Campaigners initially won the vote with over 14,000 Trust Members voting against the proposals, although the Trust's chairman at the time Sir William Proby used his block vote of 8,000 to push the plans through. Campaigners also forced a vote of no confidence in National Trust leaders because of Erddig, with over 10,000 backing the motion.

Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper who led the ‘Not on Erddig’ campaign said: “ The hypocrisy of the National Trust over this issue is astounding. How can anyone take their supposed disgust at plans to build on green belt in England seriously after their behaviour here in Wrecsam. It is a great shame they’ve never shown the same concern for green fields here in Wales and instead rode roughshod over local opinion. The Trust lost a lot of members because of its behaviour over Erddig, it’s now time they scrapped the proposals once and for all and got back to their core aims of protecting the countryside for everyone.”

Fellow campaigner and Plaid councillor Marc Jones said the Trust's recent statements on the UK governments plans to change the planning system were an example of “breathtaking hypocrisy” after their attempted money grabbing exercise at Erddig. He added “They have no shame”.

9 comments:

Hugh Jordan. Dyffryn Ceiriog said...

The National (which nation?) Trust conserves the past of a ruling class by selling the future of our people.

Fadro said...

Firstly, the development is required to fill a funding shortfall in the upkeep of Wrexham's only national tourist attraction. If in time it's proved that the proceeds were used to pay for swan liver pate volauvants at the NT AGM then please fill your boots with supercilious pie.

Secondly, 25% of the estate is destined to be affordable housing. Whilst I'm still struggling to grasp what affordable housing really means and how it is intended to assist local first time buyers, it shows the that the development is no less flawed then other local projects.

Finally, the persistent persecution of commuters moving to the area for cheaper housing bothers me. Partly as I think the numbers are being overstated a little but in the main, the resistance to confront the issue of why, in general, it is less desirable to live in and around Wrexham. What can be done at a local level to encourage business development? Do we have a suitable variety of shops and services? Do our planning committee’s take a broad enough view to protect and develop what remains of our architecture to promote a pleasant shopping/browsing experience..?
Wrexham has a serious image problem. There are tiny indications that as a whole the council are trying to improve this. In the meantime, moderately affluent commuters moving from across the border and spending their cash here can only help this along.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Fadro

The National Trust has a £350m budget for maintaining its estate, none of which is spent at Erddig. Parts of the estate left to it by Philip Yorke have already been sold off to help with the upkeep of the property (one of the most popular NT sites in the UK) so your argument is a little weak.
Secondly, the affordable housing provided remains to be seen. The developers of another site in the borough will tonight be arguing that they cannot provide the required affordable housing and want the council's planning committee to lift the requirement. Will we see the NT make the same request in years to come?
Encouraging commuter estates goes against council priorities in terms of reducing carbon footprint. It also does little in terms of protecting our communities, the environment and the idea that "moderately affluent" commuters will be Wrecsam's saviour is laughable. A decade of encouraging commuter estates has hardly benefitted Wrecsam. What is needed is for homegrown prosperity and, yes, protecting our remaining heritage and architecture.

Fadro said...

Quite. And I believe the last Squire, upon handover, gave them explicit approval to do so, if necessary.
As I said previously, I'm yet to get to grips with what defines affordable housing. Financial shuffling of equity and ownership to maintain inflated prices appears reckless on the face of it. However I'm more than happy to be educated on the subject.
Misquoting is a little distasteful even for a councilor. The inference you missed was that a modest increase of non indigenous commuter folk would not necessarily start to rain frogs, cause the collapse of the moon and lead to an increase in popularity of Tarquin as a boy’s name.
However, I am very much encouraged that you see the significance of protecting and developing what we have, in particular, in the town centre. I look forward to watching you pursue these, and other, important issues via the council committees…

Plaid Whitegate said...

The NT has yet to demonstrate that it needs the cash from the housing development to maintain Erddig. It smacks of the kind of cashing-in on greenfield sites that they oppose in England.
You're welcome to join us at tonight's planning committee - of course you have the advantage of knowing who we are rather than hiding behind a pseudonym.

Fadro (España) said...

I'll wear a pink carnation just for you.. :)

Plaid Whitegate said...

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Deafening silence here.....