Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Planning Speech

The following speech is to object to a planning application by Castlemead Homes to build 20 homes on land which is 'outside of settlement' and in the 'green barrier'. Planning Officers recommended the grant of this application on the basis that Wrexham has no Local Development Plan and there is no 5 year Land Supply as calculated by the Joint Housing Land Availability Studies and as such planners argue that Technical Advice Note 1 overrides local policies:

I don’t know about members of the committee but the one thing that struck me in reading this report was the ‘doubts’ expressed therein by Planning Officers that  they are recommending that you grant this application even though it conflicts with, not one, not two but three of our existing valid Planning policies. They seem to find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, either complying with policies or addressing land supply issues.

However, before I try to dismantle the arguments for recommending this application perhaps you will allow me to raise some points not included in the report.

I refer to the discussion that took place at the Planning Policy Panel on the 8th May 2014, where this site was classed as ‘Ruled Out’ in the Candidate Sites list for consideration for inclusion in the LDP (Site Reference is GWE07CS, Page 96 of 211) You seriously cannot have a Planning Policy officer discounting this site in the LDP and another Planning Officer recommending granting an application to develop… this makes a mockery of the development plan process.

Another document considered at that meeting was the Brownfield capacity of individual settlements. The brownfield capacity of Gwersyllt is 100 units; this begs the question why are officers are recommending building 20 houses out of settlement and in a green barrier whilst we have capacity for 100 houses on brownfield sites, but as we all know  it is cheaper for developers to build in the green barrier than brownfield sites because of remediation for contamination. This I believe is an issue of such significance so as to justify refusal.

The next point I wish to make relates to the concept of ‘PREMATURITY’, yes that’s a new one on me as well. The reference point for this is Paragraph 2.6.3 Planning Policy Wales (Chapter 2 – Development Plans) and I quote:

“Questions of prematurity may arise where an LDP is in preparation but the plan has not yet been adopted. In these circumstances refusing planning permission on grounds of prematurity may be justifiable in respect of development proposals which are individually so substantial, OR WHOSE CUMULATIVE EFFECT WOULD BE SO SIGNIFICANT that to grant permission would predetermine decisions… which ought properly to be taken in the LDP context. Refusal will therefore not usually be justified EXCEPT in cases where a development proposal goes to the HEART OF A PLAN.

I would contend that if this application is granted it WILL go to the HEART of Wrexham’s LDP considerations because at this moment in time Wrexham’s policies DO NOT ALLOW building outside of settlement or in the green barrier and if you grant this application you will be predetermining what is in the final LDP. It is my understanding that PINS have upheld a decision by yourselves to refuse to allow building outside of settlement and in a green barrier in Penycae last year.

If you grant this application you will have set a precedent and open the floodgates for more applications to build outside our plans that PROHIBIT building outside of settlement and in the green barrier. This is yet again a significant issue to justify refusal.

I will now move onto the officer’s comments for justifying his recommendation which relates mainly to TAN1 and Joint Housing Land Availability Study (JHLAS). The planning officer in his report (Page 42) states that in TAN1 that, if there is less than 5 years land supply then, “the need to increase supply should be given considerable weight.” 

WCBC own statement in the JHLAS (2013) says:

“The need to increase the 5 year supply will not override the need to take account of all other planning constraints and material considerations” (Paragraph 3.5)

There is also a need to be aware that Land supply housing figures changes from year to year as the Planning Inspectorate keeps moving the goalposts. The following quote, Paragraph 3.3 of WCBC JHLAS exemplifies the unreliability of the figures:

“WCBC acknowledges that the land supply, as based upon past build rates, is below the necessary 5 years and is aware of the requirement in such cases to take appropriate steps to increase the land supply as set out in TAN1.  However, in calculating the 5 year land supply, WCBC maintain that past completion rates should remain as 5 years and not 10 years as set out in the 2012 guidance.  As such this would result in a land supply of 4.59 years not 3.44 years and would be more reflective of market conditions.  This will also allow for a direct comparison with earlier JHLASs.  Furthermore, during the last 10 years, particularly between the periods 2006-2007 and 2007-2008, there were exceptionally high levels of housing completions where 948 units and 606 units were built respectively.  As this was during a boom period in the economy it distorts the average number of completions, particularly when it is highly unlikely that such a level of development will occur over the next few years.  The Council considers that the average completions over the past five years represent a more accurate picture of building trends.”

The JHLAS also states that are 850 units from the old UDP which expired in 2011 which are still undeveloped, nearly all these have Planning Permission but have not been brought forward because of poor market conditions. Some of these units HAVE NOT been included in the Land supply figures.

What this basically means is that you are being asked to grant planning permission to an out of settlement plot whilst there are over 150 units of the 850 units from the UDP which are NOT included in the Land Supply figures. We shouldn’t be granting planning permission based on a shortage of 5 year land supply just because developers can’t be bothered to develop land because they can’t make enough money out of them; in circumstances such as these we need to stick to the policies we have
I would also like to add to this debate comments made by Bob Dewey a respected Planning Consultant on behalf of the residents of Chestnut Court:

“A recent application in Penycae for residential development in a green barrier was rejected on appeal by the inspector who made it clear that in his view the development was contrary to both national and local policies for green barriers and (perhaps most significantly) that green barriers should only be reviewed as part of the development plan process. He also indicated that DESPITE the lack of a 5 year supply, green barriers should not be released.”
“… TAN1 clearly states that whilst the need to increase (housing) supply is worthy of considerable weight, it is only acceptable… ‘provided the development otherwise comply with plan policies.’

On the question of sustainable development Mr Dewey goes on to say, “ The applicant’s assertion that the Welsh Government has a presumption in favour of sustainable development ignores the proviso in Planning Policy Wales which makes such a presumption conditional upon there being no adopted development plan, or policies being outdated or superseded or there being no relevant policies. Clearly , none of these provisos is applicable and thus there is no presumption in favour of the development.

In concluding can I make another two brief points:
  1. Planning Policy Panel which some of you are members of are currently looking at the number of units on brownfield sites and I believe that this work should be completed before decision on green barrier and out of settlement development is made.
  2.  When the Planning Inspectorate rejected our draft LDP it was claimed that 8,000 houses over the life of the plan was insufficient and that we should plan for 12,000. Since then the 2011 Census has indicated that Wrexham CBC should project for an increase of 9,000 house which goes to show that projecting future build figures on past completions is flawed, unreliable and an inexact science which is  made even more so by changing the ‘goal posts’ from 5 years completions to 10 years to justify increasing the numbers of builds

I f you grant this application tonight you will have handed over responsibility for writing our Local Development Plan to the developers by setting a precedent and opened the floodgates to developing the green barrier, it will be a flood that will be difficult to turn back.

Please reject this application.

Please feel free to use any part of this speech to support objections to granting planning permission in the green barrier or outside of settlement and can I also suggest that you may wish to ask for a copy of you'r authority's JHLAS (Joint Housing Land Availability Study) which are currently being used by Planning Authorities to 'ride roughsod' over planning policies.


James Boardman said...

The planning officer's argument of 'if it doesn't go here, they will have to be built somewhere else' is surely not a valid point, he said himself that each should be taken on its own merit. What is the point of green barrier land if all it's merits are disregarded. I also noticed the same argument rolled out about traffic as at Brymbo, there's already lots of it so some more won't be noticed. Why we have all the national planning policy guidelines regarding sustainable development is pointless because they are ignored anyway!

Anonymous said...

The precedent of 'building outside of the settlement' was set by the building of Ysgol Bro Alun in Gwersyllt, wasn't it?

Is it time for those who opposed the site of the school to say 'I told you so' yet?

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Ysgol Bro Alun was built on a brownfield site... FACT.
It used to be an old quarry.

Anonymous said...

But outside the settlement nonetheless?