Posted: Mon 17th Feb 2020

130 house development in Rossett set to go ahead as Welsh Minister overturns unanimous local rejection of plans on appeal for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Feb 17th, 2020

Controversial plans to build more than 130 new homes in Rossett have been allowed on appeal, in a move branded by the local councillor Hugh Jones as a “wake up call for us all.”

The proposals, which were submitted by Bellis Brothers Limited, include the development of 61 homes on land north of Lane Farm, while a site to the south would have 71.

At the time the plans were submitted it was claimed by the applicants that the development would play a ‘key part’ in the local village growth.

However the plans were rejected unanimously by planning committee members in January 2019.

In a lengthy two hour meeting concerns were raised about the intrusion into the green barrier, pressure on local infrastructure and the site being a flood risk.

Just months later a bid to overturn the committee’s decision was launched by the applicants, who accused councillors of being “unreasonable” and wrong to overturn their officer’s recommendation and refuse permission.

In a statement prepared on the company’s behalf, planning consultants said the committee’s decision was not backed up by evidence and highlighted the recommendation of council officers that the plans were acceptable.

An inquiry into the application has been ongoing for several months. However over the weekend it was confirmed via letter that the outline plans for the development had been granted due to “exceptional circumstances” which “outweigh any harm to the green barrier.”

The letter – signed by Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James – states that although the development would “be contrary to the purposes of the green barrier”, the lack of up to date development plan in Wrexham “renders the LPA (local planning authority) without a five year land supply for housing.”

As a result the planning inspectorate found the “need to increase the supply of housing weighs significantly in favour of the proposal” and recommended the development was given the go ahead subject to a series of conditions.

Details provided within the decision notice, explain: “The Inspector considers the appeal site is a broadly sustainable option, well-located to a number of facilities and services.

“The evidence also indicates the development is deliverable and would provide a number of benefits, including affordable housing.

“Although the number of affordable homes would be less than the percentage requirements of the affordable housing policy in the emerging LDP, the Inspector states the contribution of 33no. affordable homes would be consistent with the 25% affordable housing requirement set by the adopted UDP and merits substantial weight in the planning balance.

“On this issue the Inspector concludes that the time-expired UDP, the lack of housing land supply and the consistency of the appeal proposals with the emerging LDP, combined with the sustainable location and positive benefits of the scheme, weigh substantially in favour of the development.

“In balancing these matters, the Inspector considers they comprise the very exceptional circumstances required to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Barrier and its wider countryside/landscape status.”

Commenting on the the loss of agricultural land – a factor debated at last year’s planning meeting – it is acknowledged again that although the plans again conflict with existing policy, the inspector considers “the housing requirements cannot be met without the loss of BMV” (Best and Most Versatile Land).

A total of 74 objections against the development were submitted by residents in the local community – with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board also warning that the development would add extra pressure on Alyn Family Doctors branches.

However it is noted in the decision that although concerns were expressed regarding the local health services, the “the local health board does not object to the principle of development and no evidence has been submitted detailing the specific healthcare infrastructure which would be required to mitigate effects of the development.”

As a result no financial contributions have been sought in this respect and the Inspector considers “refusal of planning permission on such grounds alone would not be reasonable”.

In her letter, the minister concludes: “Whilst the development would comprise inappropriate development in a green wedge, I am satisfied, in this case, when all the above factors are taken into account in their totality, they constitute the very exceptional circumstances necessary to outweigh any harm to the green barrier.

“These factors also outweigh any harm to the wider countryside and landscape setting. I am satisfied there are no other factors which weigh against the appeal.

“In reaching this decision, I have considered the duty to carry out sustainable development under section 2 of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015.

“The decision made accords with the sustainable development principle set out in the FG Act and the wellbeing objectives of the Welsh Ministers in that it contributes to the objective to “build resilient communities, culture and language” and contributes to “driving sustainable growth.”

However the decision has been challenged by Rossett councillor Hugh Jones, who last year spoke at length in opposition to the plans for the development.

Cllr Jones said: “The decision of the Welsh Ministers, which, given collective cabinets responsibility, includes the AM for Wrexham, to approve the destruction of the Green Barrier in Rossett against the overwhelming decision of our Planning Committee, but encouraged by WCBC officers, is a wake up call for us all.”

“The evidence in their, the Inspectors, report leads to a conclusion that would support the decision of our Planning Committee to reject the application.

“Furthermore it ignores their own declaration of a ‘Climate Emergency’ given that the land continues to flood and on which it is virtually impossible to get household insurance.

“Not only is it Green Barrier but it is important agricultural land.”

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