After 18 months - Have we achieved anything?

The inspector at the most recent Public Inquiry (Hawarden Road) asked about the Penyffordd Community Group - who are we? Are we a formally constituted group? No. We are a group of residents who care about the place where we live.

 A packed Legion hearing from the Flintshire schools team, Hanson Cement and the Community Group (Sept 2017)

A packed Legion hearing from the Flintshire schools team, Hanson Cement and the Community Group (Sept 2017)

Who are we?

- We originally came together to defend the Redrow case
- We don't have any planning professionals, but we do have Alan, Kathy, Clare, Pat, Roy, Alison, Colin, Lisa, Becky, Jeff, Gilly, Karen and Carolyn, supported by our County Councillors David and Cindy - individually we have very different backgrounds and very different expertise
- David, Cindy, Alan, Jeff and Roy are all on the Community Council
- the Group have committed over 1,000 man hours trying to protect our village over the last 18 months
- the Group have personally spent over £1,500 trying to protect our village over the past 18 months - all voluntary contributions
- the only public money the Group have received is £100 - the M&S vouchers for the Questionnaire

Why are we doing it?

On Principle
The huge interest in building in Penyffordd is absolutely nothing to do with the 'housing crisis'. It is a consequence of a technicality in Welsh planning law combined with Flintshire County Council's failure to have a 'current' local development plan (LDP), which is their statutory duty. The Welsh law allows for the 'presumption in favour of development' - meaning that landowners and developers can apply for planning permission on any land they want and stand a good chance of getting it.

Penyffordd had two sites allocated in the last plan process - the Groves and Heritage Park, and when they are added to Meadowslea and latest Rhos Road site, the growth of the village in less than 10 years is over 30% (the recommended growth was between 8 and 15%) - Penyffordd has had higher growth than any other town or village in Flintshire.

Done properly, land selected for development through the plan process, is considered strategically and the public consulted. Right now, land is being chosen at the whim of developers. The (UK) average land value per hectare rises from £20,000 to £6m with planning permission, so it is not entirely surprising.

To protect our 'community'
Very many residents of the village enjoy community living. The sense of feeling safe, trusting your neighbours, enjoying active social groups, clubs and teams. We enjoy well organised village events and good facilities (mostly). The recent rate of growth has meant an increasing number of residents not getting involved or realising there is a community here for them to be a part of. There has been a noticeable change for the worse for many residents and we are asking for time to allow the community to strengthen again and connect with everyone. We have a fabulous community spirit and we don't want to lose it.

What have we done?

- we have leafleted every house in the village (Aug 2016)
- we have posted a questionnaire to every house in the village (Nov 2016)
- we have prepared a substantial Place Plan for the village (May 2017)
- we have consulted on our Plan at village events and meetings (it currently has 650 names on the petition for it to be adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance by FCC)
- we are now working on the revised Place Plan to take into account changes
- We have met with FCC, with neighbouring communities, with Welsh Government and our local AM and MP.
- We have established a website with over 35,000 views. A Twitter account, Facebook page and Instagram account to promote the village.
- We have displayed posters and updated noticeboards, as well as producing regular online updates
- We have organised and presented numerous public meetings at the Legion
- We have prepared and presented detailed 'objections' documents for each planning application and sent them to the whole planning committee
- we have also submitted detailed responses to two Flintshire Local Development Plan Consultations - because that is about the future of our village

Have we actually achieved anything?

Redrow (186 houses)
We helped to get it refused unanimously at committee (after a recommendation for refusal by the Planning department). We vigorously defended the appeal at Public Inquiry. Over 300 residents formally objected and many attended the Public Inquiry. We are waiting for the decision from the Welsh Minister.

Hawarden Road (32 houses)
We got it refused at committee (unanimous apart from one abstention), despite a very forceful attempt by the Planning department to get it approved. We vigorously defended the appeal at Public Inquiry without any support or defence from Flintshire County Council. 165 residents formally objected. We are waiting for the decision from the Planning Inspector.

Battery Storage Installation 
We put enough pressure to persuade the developer to withdraw the application.

Rhos Road (North 40 houses)
We have applied considerable pressure to get the best possible development for the community - permission was granted on appeal in August 2016. We are waiting for Flintshire County Council to decide on the amendments to the plan, including affordable housing provision, community contributions, final layout and drainage plans.

Rhos Road (South 36 Apartments)
We have applied significant pressure to resist the application as it stands because it is not in the best interests of the community. We are waiting for Flintshire County Council to make a recommendation prior to planning committee.

Hanson Cement
We had meetings and site visits with Hanson and hosted them at a village meeting so that they could explain their proposals. We didn't formally object to the proposals because views of villagers was mixed, with many hopeful of a reduction in noise and an increase in employment. We did ask for some planning conditions to protect nearby residents from. nighttime activity but were unsuccessful. We continue to monitor what is happening at the site. Work is due to start this year.

New School
We have rigorously engaged with Flintshire on the design and traffic scheme for the school - the design is much improved and the traffic remains outstanding. Again we hosted FCC at our pubic meeting to share their plans. We are waiting for Flintshire County Council to finalise the transport recommendations before it goes before Committee for approval.

West View Council Houses
We quickly and strongly opposed the building of Council houses behind West View without full public consultation. The plans were withdrawn by Flintshire County Council. 

Dobshill Council Houses (24 on the old Depot Site)
We have been talking to the Flintshire team for some months to try and ensure the very best development on the site, with positive results. The final plans are ready and this will go to public consultation in the next few weeks, with our support.

Vounog (37 houses)  
We have met with the developers to discuss the detail and express the views of the village - we have tried to persuade them to follow the LDP process i.e. have that site considered in the wider context of Flintshire's strategy and the other sites proposed around Penyffordd. The pre-application public consultation is over and we are awaiting the decision of the landowner on whether they will proceed with a full application.

Bank Farm (expansion of the site for business use)
We have expressed the view that the site should not be expanded and there is a threat of future change of use to residential use i.e. housing. This planning application is with the Planning Department currently and awaiting their recommendation.

Melrose Close
We have been pressing for the derelict medical centre site to be developed for housing - there are plans in place but a dispute remains over community contributions. It is with the Planning Department.

Youth Club & Scout Hut
We are supporting the Community Council to look at possible Community Asset Transfer to bring the management and maintenance of the Youth Club into the village and take a wider view of the future of the site to meet the needs of everyone who uses (or could use) it. There are conversations ongoing between the Community Council, Institute Committee, Scouts and Flintshire to decide what to do next.

Thank you for the support

All the while we have been supported by many many residents and that is why it is the right thing to do. Residents have attended public meetings, written objections, attended the planning committees and public inquiries and engaged in the debate online. Thank you for your support. And if you believe we do not represent your views then let us know or come along to the next public meeting (we hold public meetings to share news, ask for help and to ensure that we are representing the majority voice of the community).

We do everything willingly as volunteers and whilst we accept that there will be some in the community who disagree with some of the things we do or say, we hope that it is understood that what we do is intended for the benefit of the community as a whole.  We are trying to strike a balance for a diverse community.

Place Plan

The draft Place Plan sets out the vision for the Community between now and 2030. It covers planning but also transport, economy, environment, social and environment - it aims to feed into Welsh Government objectives for Wellbeing and guide the Community Council and outside agencies on changes and exceptions that reflect the individual needs of our community. 

The draft Place Plan has been a really invaluable resource to refer to in both Public Inquiries but also where the Community Council have been responding to consultations and considering smaller applications. It is now owned and adopted by the Community Council, but not yet by Flintshire. For it to work, it has to evolve as the village changes, so must the Plan reflect those changes to remain current. The 2018 draft will be published in May and in the meantime, we need to ensure that what it contains continues to reflect the needs and views of the community as a whole. Please take the time to review the current draft and let us know if you believe anything is missing or needs to be updated.

 

What next

There are two more years before Flintshire adopt their Local Development Plan (they will be the last in Wales) - two more years for landowners and developers to try and get planning permission on their land.

We are actively pushing Flintshire on our Place Plan - it has been a real benefit to our defence so far - but we need Flintshire to work with us to finalise it and get it adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance. We remain on alert for more developments coming forward and for the next stage of the outstanding ones to be resolved.

We are not a closed group and we welcome new support - we really need people who are prepared to dedicate a bit of time to do things - we are reading and monitoring all the time. We are writing and following up correspondence with Welsh Government, Flintshire County Council, statutory bodies and developers. We are putting up posters or posting leaflets. 

if you are interested in getting involved in any way at all, please get in touch

Thank you