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Appeal lodged for Gwersyllt low secure unit development – compensation sought after ‘unreasonable’ councillor ‘rhetoric and prejudice’

A damning appeal against a planning committee decision to refuse plans for ‘low secure unit and housing development’ in Gwersyllt, had been lodged.

Applicants ASC Real Estate Investments Ltd, have submitted the planning appeal after a majority of councillors voted to refuse the plans for the 54 bedroom, low secure unit on the site on Mold Road, earlier this year.

Of the 54 bedrooms, 40 individual resident bedrooms with en-suites, arranged as four separate 10 bed units. These would be available for adults aged 18 and over, providing “care and treatment for people with mental health problems”.

The remaining 14 beds would in the ATU – Assessment Treatment Unit – comprising of 14 individual private resident bedrooms arranged as two, seven bed units. This unit would again be accessed by people aged 18 and over who have experienced a crisis / have complex needs.

The ‘hybrid’ plans, which were submitted to Wrexham Council in November 2017, also consist of a housing development of up to 30 properties.

However in a newly submitted planning appeal, it is argued that the appealant “must seek some form of compensation for the additional expenditure caused through what he sees as the unreasonable behaviour of members and so this costs application is made.”

During the meeting a series of controversial comments were made by some councillors – who made suggestions that such a development should not be located near a school, playing fields or near a train track.

At the time time Council Leader Mark Pritchard said he was “surprised” by some of the comments made; with Cllr Andrew Atkinson, Lead Member for youth services and anti-poverty, launching mental health training sessions for councillors that has since been undertaken.

Such comments are referenced in the planning appeal, which states: “Planning committee members failed in their duty to step back from such emotion and rather than review and assess the proposal on planning grounds decided to refuse permission contrary to their own adopted development plan and national planning policy.

“This is despite having the benefit of a full suite of evidence and being advised by their officers that they would be a risk of a costs award at appeal.

“No reasonable planning grounds were used to refuse permission, let alone construct a reason for refusal; the matter of which had clearly no relation to the debate or the fact it had already been complied with and confirmed as such by the officers committee report.

“Members, by refusing permission have prevented and delayed development that should clearly be permitted, having regard to its full accordance with the development plan, national policy and other material considerations – as set out and proven in this statement.”

Today we are also running an article about Councillors meeting this week to debate webcasting archives. We reference comments in a planning meeting above, that were recorded in our meeting report, and the day after we covered the reaction from many – and included a webcasting link – that webcast was the most watched recording according to recent figures .

We can link to the webcast page if you wish to see exactly what the appeal is about that references ‘unreasonable behaviour’, but to save you a click it reads “Sorry, this webcast content has expired.”

This webcast is also referenced in the appeal documents (above), and is now also effectively a dead link, so will not be viewable by those considering the appeal.

The appeal also reads of how important they feel the video footage of the meeting is to convey the manner of the debate: “Whilst the Committee Minutes may loosely provide a reasonably accurate record of the debate the Committee Webcast recording is a more accurate record and the fact is that the debate raised few issues of material planning consideration and instead the emotive tone presented by visiting Members overtook any logical and rational assessment of planning matters by Committee Members who were seduced by the rhetoric and prejudice displayed.

“This in turn meant that instead of seeking to refuse permission on planing grounds the ultimate reason for refusal had nothing to do with the debate or concerns expressed and the reason is considered flawed and not relevant to the proposal.”

The Planning Inspectorate in Cardiff will consider the appeal, and costs request, and issue a decision in the future.

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