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Brymbo gypsy & traveller site LDP proposal question prompts council apology and ‘pre-determination’ denial

Wrexham Council have been accused of “pre-determining” the outcome of controversial plans to allocate land in Brymbo for a gypsy and traveller site.

Questions asked of Wrexham Council have been made in relation to the ongoing Deposit Local Development Plan (LDP 2) consultation process which is currently underway.

The LDP 2 makes provision for 8525 new homes up until 2028 – (including a 10% contingency allowance) to deliver a requirement for 7750 homes; and estimates 4,200 new jobs could be created in Wrexham under the plan.

Over 3,000 representations have already been submitted in response to the consultation process, a number which is expected to grow when it closes at the end of July.

One of the more controversial proposals featured in the LDP is the location of three gypsy and traveller sites in Brymbo, Llay and Hanmer, with a number of residents raising concerns over the suitability of the sites.

A public question was posed by Brymbo resident Carys Edwards at Tuesday’s executive board seeking clarification over the ownership of the proposed gypsy and traveller site at the former sewerage works at Coed Y Felin Road Road, St Mary’s Church.

She also queried whether a decision for the site had been ‘pre-determined’ after it had emerged that Wrexham Council had approached Dwr Cymru, who also own a section of the land.

Ms Edwards said: “Further to the recent discovery that Wrexham County Borough Council does not own the entire site being proposed within the deposit Local Development Plan and despite this being questioned back in 2010, officers have confirmed that an approach has been made by the council to Dwr Cymru with a view to securing access rights over land in their ownership.

“Wrexham Council had stated as part of the site assessment criteria, that sites being considered had to be entirely within council ownership and therefore this suggests a failure in the selection process.

“As a result should alternative sites now be considered for a gypsy and traveller site and could it not be viewed that this approach by the council to Dwr Cymru during consultation has pre-determined the outcome leaving this open to challenge?”

However Wrexham Council’s Head of Environment and Planning, Lawrence Isted, said the council’s approach to Dwr Cymru was to simply “clarify Welsh Water’s position” and that the “vast majority of the site is in council ownership”.

He said: “I’m sorry that Welsh Water’s access was shown in error of being in council ownership, but approaching them to clarify their position on this matter did not pre-determine any decision on the future allocation of this site as the access does not affect its viability either way.

“It can potentially be accessed from their access as they have agreed or from council own land.

“In any event the board will consider all material planning considerations and the representations that have been received before taking their decision in the autumn.”

In a supplementary question allowed by Council Leader Mark Pritchard, Ms Edwards added: “As you know Brymbo residents have engaged with a highways consultant and his view access does not meet the guidelines in TAN 18 (the WAG planning advice on highway junctions).

“The crux of the matter for our residents is not on individual access, but the fact that during consultation the council have attempted to circumvent the site selection process by doing a deal with a third party landowner in order to address a clear constraint which could result in the Brymbo site being removed from the LDP.

“If it was appropriate for such an approach to be made to Welsh Water, why is it not appropriate for similar approaches to third parties now to be considered in relation to other sites which have been omitted at Stage 3 of the selection process?”

Mr Isted said: “I don’t think right to characterise this as some sort of deal. All we have done is to clarify WW position vis-a-vis their access and the vast majority of the site is in council ownership and can be developed with their access or without their access.

“All the issues you have raised about considering other sites will be considered by the members when it comes to them taking their final decision in the autumn.”

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Paul Rogers, who represents the Brymbo ward, said: “I welcome the admission by Wrexham Council that they do not own the entire area of land proposed for a gypsy and travller site.

“There are legitimate concerns about the deliverability and viability of a gypsy and traveller site at this location. The council do not own the land entirely adds to the constraints.”

“Residents are understandably concerned that there has been an approach by the council to Welsh Water and were right to challenge this.

Earlier this month Wrexham.com reported that the deadline for responses to the LDP consultation had been extended to July 16th due to some of the required documentation being unavailable to the public from the start of the public process.

A report on the LDP and outcomes of the consultation will be presented to councillors in the autumn.

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