TAN1 has Gone - we're back in Flintshire's hands

Today has been a busy day for planning in Flintshire.

Photo by grinvalds/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by grinvalds/iStock / Getty Images

- TAN1 has been suspended
- Dobshill 24 affordable homes approved
- 36 Retirement apartments on Rhos Road deferred
- Spons Green and Megs Lane applications in Buckley both refused 

Prior to the last planning committee meeting before summer, the Minister, Lesley Griffiths AM/AC wrote to all heads of planning with a letter including this statement about TAN1:

"As a result of the current housing land supply position across Wales some Local Planning Authorities are receiving ‘speculative’ applications for housing on sites not allocated for development in LDPs.  This is generating uncertainty for communities and is to the detriment of the plan-led system.  Therefore, in support of the review and to alleviate some of the immediate pressure on LPAs, I have decided to dis-apply paragraph 6.2 of Technical Advice Note (TAN1), Joint Housing Land Availability Studies, following the consultation on this matter.  This removes the paragraph which refers to attaching ‘considerable’ weight to the lack of a 5 year housing land supply as a material consideration in determining planning applications for housing.

 As a result of the dis-application of paragraph 6.2 of TAN1, it will be a matter for decision makers to determine the weight to be attributed to the need to increase housing land supply where an LPA has a shortfall in its housing land.

 The dis-application of paragraph 6.2 of TAN1 takes effect from 18thJuly, 2018. The planning applications affected will include all those which have been made but not determined by the relevant authority.  The disapplication will not apply to planning applications where it has been resolved to approve subject to the signing of a section 106 agreement."

As expected, the Dobshill council houses have been approved - these have been widely supported by the community following changes and assurances from the developers.

The 36 retirement apartment application was to be decided at committee today with a recommendation for approval, but has been deferred following this morning's update from the minister.

The dis-application of TAN1 should enable Flintshire to comfortably refuse permission on the Vounog application, but we await an update from the planning authority.

As far as the fights against developments on Chester Road, Hawarden Road and Rhos Road are concerned, it's too late. The law is like a guillotine, whatever the law is on decision day, that is the law as it will be applied - we can't backdate the decision. The Minister COULD have waiting, knowing the strength of evidence OR it was within the Minister's powers to suspect TAN1 on the 10th May without consultation, but she did neither of these things and the consequences will last forever. Worth remembering when you next vote. 

Lesley Griffiths is part of our Welsh Labour government for reference and represents a Wrexham constituency.

 

And now come the Retirement Apartments...

In the next instalment of Flintshire disregarding their own policies, the application for 36 retirement apartments south of Rhos Road has finally been scheduled to be decided at the July planning committee (Wednesday 18th 1.00pm County Hall).

Flintshire have accepted an 'outline' application, without details of types of apartment or car parking, contra to their adopted Developers Guidance Note.

The developer has agreed to change their position on affordable homes - it will comply with policy and there will be 30% affordable, though the details are not agreed and could include a commuted sum, as Redrow did, to limit the number of properties on the site and add cash into the Flintshire affordable homes funding pot. This has got to stop because it skews the mix of people living in a local society.

Flintshire have listened to another piece of feedback and are requiring a £70,000 contribution to put a safe crossing on the bypass to enable safe access to the train station, which would benefit all rail users.

The development is limited to over-55s, but there are no more details on that. There is a proposed £1,100 per dwelling contribution to the community which has been specified for teenage play improvements at the Millstone (why?).

You can read the full officers report here:

Once again, the only reason this development can be considered now is because of TAN1. Flintshire could recommend refusal and we would argue they should on principle.

TAN1 Under Review

For anyone who has been following the continual threat of new housing developments around Penyffordd (and across Wales) over the last 2 years, you will know that the reason is because of TAN1.

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Background
TAN1 - or Technical Advice Note 1 - is part of Planning Policy Wales and is intended to cover periods where local planning authorities have no adopted Local Development Plan - such as Flintshire and Wrexham right now. The wording of TAN1 sets a presumption in favour of development and in many cases has meant that developers have been able to submit applications on green field sites at will.

Local authorities have been frustrated because they have lost control of housing site selection as appeals have been upheld in favour of development - because of TAN1.

What's Happening Now?
The Welsh Government have announced a proposal to temporary remove the offending wording from TAN1 while they conduct a review into housing delivery across Wales. But they are asking for evidence to support that proposal before it is confirmed.

What does it mean for the outstanding applications?
We don't know.

In Penyffordd, TAN1 has been directly responsible for planning permission being granted on two sites already (Rhos Road North and Hawarden Road) and for applications to be submitted on Chester Road (Redrow), Rhos Road (South) and Vounog Hill with more in the pipeline.
Rhos Road South is with Flintshire right now and there is no new.
Vounog is still in public consultation and if there enough objections for planning reasons there is a possibility it could be delayed to avoid June's committee.|
Chester Road (Redrow) is in the hands of the Minister who was expected to announce a decision any day now. It is not clear where this consultation on TAN1 may be too late

What can you do?
They are asking for feedback on two questions and any evidence we can provide will help the case for having TAN1 suspended. You can read more about the consultation here:

https://beta.gov.wales/technical-advice-note-temporary-dis-application-of-paragraph-6-2

 

 

Vounog - How to object and what to object to...

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The Vounog planning application is now open for comments.

If you have been following the other recent planning applications and decisions and you feel like it is a foregone conclusion that it will be granted permission, it is not. Please read on. 

The Planning Process Explained

If you are new to the planning process, this is a quick overview of how it works:
1. The applicant pre-consults with residents and statutory bodies (e.g. water and highways)
2. The applicant submits the full planning application to the local authority. If the authority are happy that it is a valid application they will open it for a 28 day formal consultation (which is what is happening now).
3. The planning department review the case and make a recommendation to approve or refuse permission to the planning committee. This will only be based on the specific application and its compliance with local and national policies and other planning considerations.
4. The planning committee will debate and vote on whether to accept the planning departments recommendation.
5. If it is approved, then there is no right of appeal for residents. If it is refused then the applicant has a right of appeal and the case goes to the Planning Inspectorate where an independent planning inspector makes the final decision.

Why are there so many planning applications?

The whole planning system in Wales is built around 'Local Development Plans'. At the heart of those plans is land for housing.  Each local authority has to be able to demonstrate that they have a 5-year supply of land.

Flintshire don't currently have a local plan or a 5-year land supply. Welsh Government policy (TAN1) has a 'presumption in favour of development' in these circumstances. That means that developers can submit applications on any land (not allocated as part of the local plan), as long as they are otherwise compliant with local and national policy. Because Flintshire's local plan is out of date the local policies don't seem to carry a lot of weight.

Why is Penyffordd such a target?

Because on paper it is a 'sustainable' location. We have a train station, we are close to the motorway network, we have buses, a pharmacy, churches, shops, a takeaway, a new school etc.

It doesn't seem to matter what these services and facilities are like in practice.

Objecting...

You need to write your objection in your own words, if you can make it person to you in some way that helps, and you can object about as many things as you like or just one that matters most to you. These are some of the valid objections you could make to this development:

OBJECTION 1 - NOT SUSTAINABLE

Both Castell Alun and Elfed secondary schools are oversubscribed in this years intake.
There is no pre-school in the village any more.
There are long delays getting a doctors appointment in both Hope and Buckley.
The 3a bus service has been removed
The 3 bus service no longer goes up Vounog
The Scouts are oversubscribed and there is a wait list for all age groups
The existing sewer and foul water system is over capacity through the village and regularly floods
The Internet connections are over-subscribed
What else?

If you have any personal experiences of any of these or other problems, then these can be your objection - personal stories make the greatest impact. We have heard of children having to go on to different schools from the same class because of a lack of spaces for example. What impact has the loss of bus services had on you getting to work, college or shops?

OBJECTION 2 - HOUSING MIX

There is a specific Flintshire UDP policy for this:
HSG9 Housing Mix and Type
This development contains:
6x  2 Bed
9x  3 Bed
22x 4 Bed
The applicant says that 11 of these will be affordable but doesn't say which ones.
There is no doubt that these are not intended for housing need in the village or surrounding area.

The consequence of yet more 4 bedroom detached properties is to bring more cars and car use - one of the main reasons for our reduction in bus services and contra to the Wellbeing goals for active travel.

OBJECTION 3 - OUTSIDE THE SETTLEMENT BOUNDARY

Flintshire Policy STR1 (which directs new development to land within settlement boundaries or allocated areas and only permits development in the open countryside where it is essential to have it there).
GEN3 (which does not permit development outside settlement boundaries or allocated areas except in certain circumstances, none of which are applicable in this case)
HSG4 (which does not permit housing development outside settlement boundaries unless it is essential it be located outside a settlement, and none of the circumstances are applicable to this case).

Clearly with 2 applications already approved for 32 and 40 houses outside of the Penyffordd settlement boundary, there is not an essential need for further development in our community at this time.

OBJECTION 4 - OVERDEVELOPMENT

Flintshire Policy STR4 sought to provide for the housing needs of the County through a settlement hierarchy comprising category A (urban centres), B (semi urban/main villages) and C (rural/small villages). Penyffordd is a Category B settlement, described as “with a good nucleus of facilities, easily accessible by public transport and which have some potential for growth (8% - 15%). 

Since 2000 Penyffordd has grown from 1,340 houses to 1,830 houses built or with planning approval - 490 new houses - growth of 37%, rather than the 8-15% recommended. 

We are still awaiting decisions on the two other outstanding applications - 186 houses on Chester Road and 36 dwellings on Rhos Road.

OBJECTION 5 - AGRICULTURAL LAND

The applicant has submitted a report demonstration that the land is classified as 66% category 3b land and 33% category sub-3a land. We know that the land has been farmed for generations by the same family, previously with crop and most recently for grazing. 

Welsh national planning policy is clear on the hierarchy of land for development because 'land is a finite resource' and open countryside and agricultural land should be the last to be considered for development.

OBJECTION 6 - LOSS OF AMENITY

Everyone in the village describes this land as 'sledging hill'. It has been used for sledging for generations and the farmers have opened the gate to allow it for generations. The absent landlord, via their land agent make this reference to its use for sledging in their consultation report:
" Any use of the land for winter recreation is not authorised by the landowner and is therefore unlawful."

If you have every sledged on that hill, then write and tell the planning authority how good it is to laugh with people you don't know, to share time in the open with your family and friends, to feel the cold together and have fun. Share your pictures on social media - we will collect them together and send them in.

If, as a consequence of this application, the sledging field is lost either because of housing being built or of a vindictive absentee landowner, it will be a great loss to this community, because there is no alternative place to sledge.

OBJECTION 7 - LANDSCAPE AND VISUAL IMPACT

The applicant has submitted a Landscape assessment which suggests that there will be no visual impact as a result of the development. If you do not agree, then you need to say so and explain why.

WHAT NOT TO OBJECT ABOUT

The planning authority cannot take into account comments on the following types of concerns:

Personal characteristics of the applicant
The effect of the proposal on property values
Disturbances during building work
Loss of view
Private rights of way, private drains and other private easements and legal covenants
Disputes over land ownership
Commercial competition
Building Regulation issues (e.g. structural stability, drainage, fire precautions, hygiene and internal space).

WHAT YOU CAN OBJECT ABOUT

The issues you raise must involve planning matters such as:

  • Impact on residential amenity (e.g. hours of use, loss of privacy, loss of light, over dominance, noise, traffic)
  • Impact on the character and appearance of an area (design, appearance and intensity)
  • Impact on highway safety (e.g. poor visibility, pedestrian safety, parking)
  • Impact on community facilities
  • Planning policies and proposals, or Government planning advice.

HOW TO OBJECT

Email your comments to:

planningdc@flintshire.gov.uk.  As stated below, you must include certain information in your email.

Write to us at:

Head of Planning, Environment Directorate, County Hall, Mold, Flintshire, CH7 6NF.

You must include the following information in your letter.  Failure to do so may result in your comments not being taken into account.

  • Site address of application: Land East Of Vounog Hill Penyffordd
  • Description of proposal: Outline application for residential development
  • Application number: 058164
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your comments about the proposal

Submit your comments online:

Finally...

If you are weary of all of the planning applications or don't see the point in objecting because it will have no effect then please say that. The very first part of Planning Policy Wales describes the need for a 'well functioning planning system' - clearly that is not the case in Penyffordd.

Strutt and Parker admitted that the landowner had decided to 'have a go' at getting planning permission because of the state of the planning system and the presumption in favour of development. The Hawarden Road applicant also admitted that they had decided not to wait for the Local Plan process in fear of missing out on the bonanza. 

If you don't like it, let the people who oversee it know:

Andrew Farrow is Chief Officer in charge of planning at Flintshire:
andrew.farrow@flintshire.gov.uk

Lesley Griffiths AM/AC is the Welsh Minister in charge of planning at Welsh Government
DS.CabSecEPandRA@gov.wales

Jack Sergeant AM is our Welsh Assembly Member
Jack.Sargeant@assembly.wales

Mark Tami MP is our MP
tamim@parliament.uk

 



 

 

Vounog Planning Application Submitted

We have had notification from Strutt and Parker that the application to build 37 houses on Vounog Hill has been submitted to planning. 

The only obvious changes to the proposed layout is the addition of a public footpath, a pedestrian crossing island and landscape improvements to the public open space including wild flowers, trees and a pond.

The proposed layout - click for a larger image

The Next Steps

The planning department will review the plans and if there is nothing immediate to stop them considering the application, it will be published on the planning website and opened into the formal consultation period. The comments made then are considered by the planning officers, planning committee and potentially planning inspectors if necessary.

The planning authority will then make a recommendation for approval or refusal and it will go before the planning committee for a decision.

If the planning committee were minded to refuse planning permission, the applicant has a right to appeal and the application will be determined by an independent planning inspector.

Dobshill - 10 Reasons why we are not objecting

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We have spent the last 18 months + fighting housing developments in Penyffordd including representing the interests of Penyffordd Ward (Penyffordd, Penymynydd and Dobshill) in the Flintshire local plan consultation.

So why are we not objecting to the latest one in Dobshill?

Here are some of the things we have considered:

1. Affordable Homes

We need affordable homes in our community. There are families, couples and individuals who cannot afford to buy a house and cannot afford market rent. We want people who live in or originate in our community to have the opportunity to live here. This development includes disabled access bungalows, a four bedroom house and two one bedroom apartments - all affordable - these are all in very short supply. It is frustrating that the last two developments on the Groves and Heritage Park contained only 10% affordable homes rather than the 30% that should be there - this development will go some way to correcting that balance.

2. Brownfield Land

Welsh Government policy, Flintshire policy and our own Place Plan specify that development should take place on Brownfield (previously developed) sites first. This land was formerly a council depot and it now sits derelict with the land contaminated and in need of a cleanup.

 The site entrance today

The site entrance today

 Inside the site

Inside the site

 The land is contaminated

The land is contaminated

3. Size of Development

The proposal is for 24 dwellings on 0.6 hectares of land. Our Place Plan preference is for no more than 23 homes per hectare (this site would hold 15 homes on that basis) - however, 8 of the dwellings are flats in a single building. Our Place Plan also proposes no more than 25 homes in a single development and this proposal complies with that.

 Our May 2017 Community Place Plan set out the vision for 2030 and has included the Dobshill depot

Our May 2017 Community Place Plan set out the vision for 2030 and has included the Dobshill depot

4. Alternative Uses

The site is owned by Flintshire County Council and in the current financial climate they will want to realise some value from it. This proposal is for houses built for the Council. The land is not in good condition and therefore expensive for a private housing developer to deliver and so might become a commercial site or be sold for some other use. Arguably, it is preferable for neighbours to have housing rather than a commercial operation on their doorstep.

5. Types of Homes

The proposal is for 100% affordable homes in a mixture of council, affordable rent and potentially some shared-equity affordable homes - we are waiting to confirm the mix. The intention is for the allocation of housing (from the Flintshire affordable register) will favour those from the community first - including Dobshill, Penyffordd/Penymynydd and Drury.

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The proposal for the site has:
2 No. x 1 Bed apartment
4 No. x 2 Bed apartment
2 No. x 2 Bed Bungalow
8 No. x 2 Bed House
5 No. x 3 Bed House
1 No. x 4 Bed House.
2 No. Adapted Bungalows

 The largest building is the apartment block

The largest building is the apartment block

 Accessible bungalow design

Accessible bungalow design

6. Impact on the Flintshire Local Development Plan

 This field is one of two other sites proposed for development in Dobshill

This field is one of two other sites proposed for development in Dobshill

Flintshire have set their strategy for the period to 2030 and it includes building 7,645 homes to satisfy employment growth of 8,000 - 10,000 jobs. There is therefore pressure to build, as we have seen in Penyffordd. Although Dobshill is described as an 'Undefined Village' and therefore not in the top settlement categories, its location next to both the A55 and the Borderline railway make it vulnerable to having to accept some housing allocation.

There are three candidate sites in Dobshill, the largest of which (behind the garage) could deliver 90+ houses. The development site is one of the 3 and if it goes ahead will significantly strengthen the case against any further development in this plan period. We also understand that Tom Jones old farm is up for auction and his land is for sale - that land mostly connects Penymynydd and Dobshill and is currently green barrier in the UDP. 

We will vigorously resist any development proposals on the green field sites in Dobshill.

7. Visual Appearance

The plan designers have sought to cause the least harm to the environment or neighbouring properties in their layout and designs. We have been assured that the existing substantial hedgerows and established trees will not be touched, other than to allow for wider access at the entrance and to enable access to the children's play area directly from the development.

The design of the feature properties (directly opposite the entrance) is intended to mirror the style of the cottage terraces on the other side of Chester Road.

The one frustration is that the largest building on the site, which contains the apartments, is at the front of the development - though moving it to the rear was explored. That building is slightly higher than the others (less than 1 metre) because of the sound insulation between floors.

 Chester Road - opposite the site entrance

Chester Road - opposite the site entrance

 Designs of the feature properties which would 'face' Chester Road

Designs of the feature properties which would 'face' Chester Road

8. Traffic

At times Chester Road can be very busy, usually with traffic using the lanes as a cut through. Allowing these additional properties and therefore additional cars will add to that problem, but also provide further reason why we need to get traffic calming to reduce the cut through traffic. We are aware of significant volumes of traffic from Hope bypassing Penyffordd via Lower Mountain Lane, Old Hope Road and then through Chester Road to Dobshill.

9. Impact on Services

One of the major objections to other proposals in Penyffordd has been the lack of infrastructure to support growth. How does that apply here?

Gas - we understand there is no main gas supply on Chester Road - we will raise this issue with FCC and find out whether there is a plan to install it
Waste - there are concerns about surface water run off and existing drainage capacity - we will raise this issue with FCC to clarify their plans
Doctors - The GP services in Hope, Buckley and Hawarden all have significant wait times but we have been told that it is the responsibility of the local Health Authority to address demand
School places - the new primary school in Penyffordd is expected to be ready for autumn 2019 and will have capacity. Elfed High School is the closest High School to Dobshill and has plenty of capacity.

10. Partnership

Wates, the builder, have been appointed by Flintshire County Council to deliver all the homes on the SHARP scheme. They already have other successful schemes completed in Pontybodkin and Flint which look good. Crucially, we are talking with them and the Flintshire County Council representatives about the scheme (it has not gone into planning yet). 

Following our numerous public meetings and questionnaire feedback, we have been representing the wishes of those residents of Dobshill who contributed - the need to develop this site has been known for a long time and we included it in our Community Place Plan.

We have proactively pressed for 12 months to know the intentions for the site and following a meeting where early drafts of the plan were available, we have considered what we be most worrying for residents and what the community needs and we requested some changes, notably:

Adding some affordable to buy properties to the mix (to aid better social cohesion). That is yet to be confirmed but we will continue to press. The reason for this is to make sure that there are residents with a vested interest which will help to promote pride in the properties and the environment. We consider it wrong to build a development of all executive homes and we consider it equally wrong to build a development of 100% council and rented properties.

Increasing car parking for visitors to avoid any parking on the road. That has been done.

Moving the bin store positions to make them more convenient to future residents and less visible to current residents. That has been done.

Opening a pedestrian access to the children's play area (to the west) to enable direct access for new residents but also through access for people using the footpath coming from Prices Hill Wood - again it will aid social cohesion by providing a reason for pedestrians to use the new development as a thoroughfare. That has been done.

We did request the apartment building be moved to the rear of the site but that was not possible due to the underground water drainage proposal.

We are in dialogue with the development team and if there are concerns that can be addressed, they will discuss them and review the possibilities.

 The SHARP scheme in Flint

The SHARP scheme in Flint

 The SHARP scheme in Flint

The SHARP scheme in Flint

 The SHARP scheme in Flint

The SHARP scheme in Flint

Because Wates have a long term relationship with FCC, they are also happy to contribute to community projects and work with local communities - we are continuing the conversations with them.

What happens next?

The Wates and FCC team are happy to attend a public meeting to share the detail of the plans and answer questions if there is demand.

There is a pre-consultation period now until the 26th March 2018. That will give you a chance to provide feedback on the scheme, including objections and suggestions about what to improve. You can email feedback to Ian.sharrocks@wates.co.uk.

Once the consultation period is over, the builders and FCC will review the feedback before submitting a formal planning application. There is then a further consultation period where official objections can be submitted. The scheme will then be decided before the planning committee. 

Let us know what you think and we will share all of the feedback with Wates and Flintshire County Council:

 

 

 

6 Lessons from a planning decision

The Application

This was a proposed development on Hawarden Road, Penyffordd for 32 two and three bed houses, 30% of which would be affordable, including open space, new access road and acoustic fencing. The land is 60% grade 3a agricultural land outside of the Penyffordd settlement boundary and adjacent to the A550 Penyffordd by-pass.

165 letters of objection were submitted and 4 letters in support.
The Community Council and two local county councillors objected.

The planning authority appeared determined to approve the application from the outset. What were their reasons?

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Timeline

July 2017        
Recommended for approval by the Local Planning Authority (LPA),

August 2017
Appeal lodged for non-determination.

September 2017
Refused at Committee by all councillors with one abstention.

December 2017
The Refusal reversed behind closed doors after the committee heard advice from a Barrister.

January 2018
Appeal heard at Public Inquiry.

February 2018
Appeal upheld.


Housing Need

Flintshire’s own figures based on actual build rates suggest there is not a housing shortage in ‘real’ terms. However, according to the Welsh Government method of calculation, Flintshire cannot demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply and therefore there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development. But is the housing need real?

There is a waiting list on the affordable housing register which indicates that there is a local need for affordable housing. However, had the last two developments in Penyffordd included a 30% affordable housing provision (rather than 10%) there would have been an additional 62 affordable homes in Penyffordd today (all since 2011). There has also been a predominant mix of larger detached houses in the last few developments in Penyffordd with fewer 2 and 3 bedroom including semi-detached properties.

Lesson One

If we are genuinely building houses to satisfy housing need, then a minimum of 30% affordable provision should be non-negotiable and developments need to include a good balance of different property types to meet the needs of the wider area, but importantly, to provide continued balance to the community itself.
 

Developer Guidance Note

Flintshire LPA have produced a Developers Guidance Note, which was subject to public consultation and adopted by Flintshire County Council. The guidance note requires full detailed planning application from developers, rather than outline applications.

The reason there is a need for a developer’s guidance note is due to the lack of a current Local Development Plan (LDP) in Flintshire. That means there are no allocated sites (aside from those not developed under the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and which are potentially less attractive to developers).

The Hawarden Road developer fully complied with the Guidance Note and sought to satisfy all that was asked of them from the local authority. So, the developer selects the site, demonstrates that what they are planning is compliant with some of the planning policies and is sustainable -  and that satisfies the LPA.

Lesson 2

We believe that communities deserve a voice in this plan-less void and there is a solution in Community Place Plans. Place Plans are part of the planning policy framework and sit beneath Local Development Plans. The Welsh Government intention is that individual communities can include ‘exceptions’ to the LDP which apply specifically to their neighbourhood. Adopted and consulted Place Plans can carry the significant weight of Supplementary Planning Guidance under an LDP, but ahead of the adoption of an LDP, they should carry the same weight as the Developers Guidance Note, providing they are broadly compliant with the LDP strategy. We need an agreed process and timeline for that to happen.

Settlement Growth Targets

There is a need for housing over the coming decade. There is a need for every ‘sustainable’ community to accept that some growth is inevitable.

The Flintshire Unitary Development Plan (2000-2015) included recommended percentage growth limits for each of three settlement categories. In Penyffordd, a Category B settlement, the limit was proposed between 8 and 15%. In reality the UDP sites allocated in Penyffordd allowed for planned growth of over 25%.

Flintshire have decided in the LDP process, not to apply settlement growth figures at all. There are now five bands of ‘sustainability’ in the next local plan, with 37 settlements considered able to sustain development in the LDP. There is no indication if every settlement will be expected to have land available for development or whether there will be reasonable limits per settlement.

Penyffordd had already been allocated significant growth under the UDP and has since received six different speculative planning applications in 2 years. So far two of those have been granted planning permission on appeal.

Lesson 3

Without any growth guidance under the LDP, there is unlimited potential for additional developments to be added to each settlement. We did some quick maths and what we found was alarming for Penyffordd:

7,645 – target number of new homes in Flintshire 2015 – 2030
1,300 – of those on strategic sites
6,345 – Houses to be provided by the 37 sustainable settlements
171 houses per settlement if distributed equally

Penyffordd have already had that many since 2015
There are applications outstanding for a further 259 houses.

There has to be some limit if the impact on community life and ‘cohesive communities’ is to be taken into account.

So What?

There is an often used legal term ‘so what?’. 
‘So what?’ if another 72 houses get built in Penyffordd? It’s a good question.

From the point of view of those involved:

THE LANDOWNER (WINNER)

Realises significant value from their asset and removes the need to maintain the land.

THE DEVELOPER / BUILDER (WINNERS)

Provides short term local employment (if it is a local builder) and profit

THE FUTURE HOMEOWNERS (SOME WINNERS SOME LOSERS)

The mixture of properties allow movement within the settlement and local area which could enable first-time buyers to get into a house in the area or for owners of larger homes to downsize. In this particular development, the future homeowners will face significant noise from the bypass and cement works.

THE COUNCIL  (WINNERS)

Are able to tick a further 32 houses off their housing target, they will gain directly from council tax payments, though countered by the additional responsibilities in providing for the new residents, street maintenance etc. The houses are not being built in a location which has been selected through the plan process, and is not therefore necessarily compliant with the strategic plan.

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT (WINNERS)

Allowing the selection of sites according to the opportunist behaviour of landowners and developers means that housebuilding will not necessarily accord with the government strategies, particularly around Wellbeing, cohesive and resilient communities or active travel.

THE COMMUNITY  (LOSERS)

There is the benefit of new housing, including affordable, to allow for the potential in-migration of existing residents which could keep families close to each other within the community – particularly important for carers. The downside is that there is additional pressure on services including water, waste, internet, schools and medical.

The impact on social-cohesion is the most significant.

There are no school places at the schools where children would normally attend. But where children go to school is viewed as a matter for the education authority, not planning. What this means in Penyffordd is that children who shared the same primary school class will be separated as they go to secondary school. But this is not limited to new children from the newest developments, it will be based on distance primarily and that means the perception is that new residents are causing existing residents to lose their school places. This resentment is social poison.

The increasing difficulties getting doctor’s appointment are also made worse (for everyone) each time there is a new development without an increase in the number of doctors. Again, this is not a planning matter, that is for the local health authority (though how the health authority is supposed to plan when random developments are approved is a mystery).

On Hawarden Road the developers, allowed by the planners, have proposed a dedicated children’s play area. This means that the parents and children in the new development have no reason to walk down the village to the other larger play areas (there are three within a few minutes walk) – that is bad for active travel and bad for promoting the possibility of chance interactions with other members of the community. It will help to leave new residents socially isolated. The community will also lose the presence of sheep that graze of the land as well as the open landscape at the northern entrance to the village.

Then there is the matter of social-resilience. (something that Welsh Government aspire to and referenced in their ground-breaking Wellbeing of Future Generations Act). With a huge proportion of a community behaving with resilience; coming together, acting together, evidencing harm from recent overdevelopment and then being totally disregarded; that hugely undermines resilience. There is a sense of inevitable defeat and hopelessness – because of a loss of faith in the system.

Most people are reasonable and expect some growth. Not everyone will be happy with where that growth comes, but people understand the need to provide for a growing population. But when that growth is uncontrolled, unmanaged and apparently without limit, that too is like poison to the spirit that binds a community.

Lesson 4

In the absence of a Local Plan, it should be a requirement for planning authorities to work WITH communities. The adversarial nature of the planning process is leading to unwanted and poorly integrated developments which cause harm whilst adding to the housing spreadsheet. Community Plans (Place Plans) and Community Councils can provide a realistic local voice – not necessarily in residence to every development – but in consultation with developers and local authority.

It is only possible for developers to apply for planning permission on agricultural land because the local authority have failed to adopt a Local Development Plan. The local authority should not therefore have all the power without consulting meaningfully with communities.

What about Schools?

The most emotive part of the last two public inquiries in Penyffordd has been around Schools. In the Hawarden Road report from the LPA, it was made clear that there are insufficient school places at either the local primary school or the local secondary school. In spite of this the LPA recommended approval and a cash contribution from the developer, calculated according to a formula – not to provide school places but to improve the accommodation of the art department. The developer argued that a new school was proposed in the village that would provide capacity and that there are spaces in secondary schools elsewhere so there is no need for them to pay anything. It was also argued at the Redrow inquiry that it is not the place of developers to prop up schools budgets for improvements to facilities.

In the Hawarden Road inquiry discussions around S106 contributions, the LPA conceded that school places would come available once the new primary school was built in the village in 2019. Those residents fighting the school planning application might be horrified to discover that the Council conceded the point of primary school capacity on the assumption that the application would be approved – before it had been before the planning committee. Had the Council stood their ground on the known actual capacities then the developer would have had to make a contribution -  that concession cost the council £100,000 of school funding.

Lesson 5

The impact of schools on a community is significant and it is important that serious consideration is given to lack of capacity and what that means for the children, families and consequently the community. If policy directs the LPA to take cash contributions in lieu of school places and developers can escape those contributions, then the system is not working and needs to be looked at. There is real harm as a consequence of this and the solution is not just within the remit of the LPA but of the Local Authority as a whole.

Consequences

The determination of the local planning authority to get this development approved is worrying. One viewpoint would be that they are looking at the potential to defend an appeal and didn’t believe they could afford sufficient weight to their own UDP policies and consequently they would inevitably lose at appeal with the risk of incurring all costs; another viewpoint is that they didn’t see the harm, took a view that it should be allowed and felt that they know best.

In Penyffordd where this is the second successful appeal, with another one awaiting a decision and three additional developments in the planning system, the lack of weight afforded to planning policy and no end in sight to the growth of the settlement, suggests that we have planning anarchy. The community voice carries no weight.

The one benefit intended by Welsh Government is that new developments bring funds to communities to support the improvements of facilities – the Community Infrastructure Levy. As a consequence of this development, there will be no money for the community, no money for schools or anything else.

LESSON 6

The planning system in Wales isn’t working. The Hawarden road application is a perfect example.

The consultant employed by the landowners admitted to fearing missing out and couldn’t wait for the LDP process with other applications going through, so they submitted the application speculatively. They also admitted that, having seen the extent of the opposition, they believed the planning committee would refuse and so they didn’t wait for the committee, they appealed early for ‘non-determination’.

Because the LDP process is so late, it is not working and the planning committee is irrelevant – in the eyes of the developer (and the community).

The irrelevance of the planning committee was further reinforced when they did decide to refuse the application only to be persuaded to reverse their decision behind closed doors three months later.

In the eyes of the residents, the same people who have failed to get the LDP in place are recommending that the houses should be built, despite their own policies being broken and irrespective of the objections of hundreds of residents and elected councillors.

One point to note was the location of the Public Inquiry. The Inspectorate advised that the appeal was to be determined by Public Inquiry. That Inquiry should have been heard in the community – as the Redrow one had the month before. There is no excuse for it being held in a building next door to County Hall. The public attendance was poor because of the inaccessibility of the venue. The facilities were worse and it further served to demonstrate the disconnect between the planning system and the community.

Something needs to be done to restore the integrity of the whole planning system in the eyes of both developers and residents.