Statement from Janet about the Marl Lane Planning Application

(Photo - from the North Wales Live)

Statement from Janet about the Marl Lane Planning Application

I am writing with regards to the application for a residential development comprising of 110 dwellings and associated works on land at the corner of Pentywyn Road and Marl Lane.

Firstly, I would like to thank everyone who have given their time to participate in the planning process. Indeed, I have been delighted to see such a strong community reaction and willingness to make the most of the democratic processes in place.

Unfortunately, the objections submitted by over 1,300 of us, and Conwy County Borough Council, have not succeeded in convincing the Planning Inspectorate to refuse planning permission. Indeed, it has been granted.

From reading  the appeal decision, I understand that whilst the development is located outside the settlement boundary of the Local Development Plan, the Inspector has concluded that the proposal would not harm the setting and significance of heritage assets and the historic landscape; would not result in an unacceptable loss of best and most versatile agricultural land; that Ysgol Awel y Mynydd has sufficient capacity for the demand generated from the development; that the health board had not objected given that the number of houses proposed is within the predicted growth rate; and that significant weight should be accorded to the contribution of the development to increasing affordable housing, and the issue of the shortfall of housing land supply.

The latter point is particularly frustrating as concerns previously raised by myself and others in the National Assembly for Wales resulted in a decision to dis-apply the requirement to put considerable weight to the lack of a 5-year housing land supply as a material consideration in determining planning applications for housing. Here in Conwy, we have a serious shortfall. Indeed, according to the methodology imposed by the Welsh Labour Government – which is another matter I have been working to amend – we only have a 3.1year supply. Consequently, we have seen speculative applications for housing being approved, such as at Sychnant Pass, and now Marl Lane.

Additionally, it is noted by the Inspector that only the main parties were given an opportunity to comment on the implications of Planning Policy Wales (edition 10) (PPW 10). This was introduced in December – after the inquiry had been undertaken in September. At the time, I expressed my own disquiet about the fact that almost all interested parties, including around 1,300 of us who had objected, were not being invited to comment on the impact of the change in policy.

Given the above, I promised to continue to robustly make representations with regards to the methods used and the process employed by the Welsh Government in carrying out their own duties as a democratically elected body. Therefore, I wrote to the Welsh Government asking three questions: whether the Planning Inspectorate will be penalised for missing the Ministerial deadline; whether, bearing this in mind, all interested parties could be allowed to submit comments relating to PPW 10; and why the Welsh Labour Government does not deem it necessary for the Planning Inspectorate to consult with all interested parties. The reason for the latter question is my understanding that it is a regulation introduced by the Welsh Government in 2017 which was stopping interested parties, like many of us who objected, from being invited to comment further.  

Whilst I have now received responses from Julie James AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government, Welsh Government, and the Head of Service – Operations & Policy (Wales), Planning Inspectorate, neither address my questions about consulting interested parties. I have now responded to the Minister querying this, and why the Welsh Labour Government decided that it is not necessary for all interested parties to be invited to make representation where the new evidence is Welsh Ministers’ policy. Indeed, the reality is that had there been any other new material, all interested parties would have been consulted. I believe that this regulation is wrong, and needs changing so that Welsh Ministerial policy is treated the same as any other relevant evidence in these circumstances.

Going forward, I currently believe that we do not have a strong enough case to take the decision to judicial review. It follows that whilst it is unlikely that the development in question can now be stopped, I will be working to change the Welsh Labour Government’s regulation, which has, in this instance, seen elected members and over 1,300 objectors denied the opportunity to comment on new evidence which might, in my opinion, have strengthened the case against the planning application.