Posted: Tue 2nd Jun 2020

Campaign group takes on Planning Inspectorate and Housing Minister over approval of 132 houses in Rossett for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jun 2nd, 2020

A campaign group has lodged complaints against the Planning Inspectorate and Welsh housing minister after plans for 132 new homes in a Wrexham village were approved.

Residents in Rossett were left angered after permission to develop land to the north and south of Lane Farm was granted on appeal earlier this year.

The proposals were originally refused by Wrexham Council’s planning committee amid concerns over the loss of green land, the risk of flooding and the impact on pedestrian safety.

However, the decision was overturned in a move laid out by the Welsh Government’s Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James.

In a letter, she said inspectors had found the need to increase the supply of housing in Wrexham “significantly” weighed in favour of the scheme.

Members of the Rossett Focus Group (RFG) have now made a complaint against the inspectorate for its handling of the appeal.

They also accused Ms James of breaching the Ministerial Code of Conduct by making a decision without all the relevant evidence in front of her.

In a statement posted on the group’s website, they said: “RFG contend that the appeal inspector made a perverse recommendation to allow the appeal based on the deposit Local Development Plan (LDP) which he found unsound two days after his decision, blatantly ignoring cogent evidence in the process whilst endorsing the planning committee refusal.

“In addition, he did not send or was not requested to send all the evidence up to the minister.

“From thereon, the minister was not provided with any evidence from the appeal.

“She was advised that her decision would not conflict with any Welsh Government policies, but the lack of evidence being put in front of her breached appeal decision protocol.

“By the actions of the appeal inspector and the minister, this approval has allowed the precedence to be established that building can now take place anywhere at any time by an applicant stating there is a need somewhere.”

Ahead of the meeting to determine the proposals last year, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board warned it would add to existing pressures on GP practices in the area.

Bellis Brothers Limited, which owns the land, appealed against the committee’s decision after consultants acting on the company’s behalf criticised councillors for turning the plans down.

They also described comments made by the council’s then deputy leader Hugh Jones about nearby homeowners being denied flood risk insurance as “mischievous”.

Cllr Jones has now voiced his backing for the complaints made by RFG against how the appeal was handled.

He said: “The perverse decision by the Welsh Government ministers to overturn the overwhelming decision by Wrexham Council planning committee and grant approval for the destruction of our green barrier is a devastating blow to our community.

“Their report clearly shows all the evidence leads to a conclusion to reject the appeal, yet contrary to all local and national planning policies and contrary to their recently declared climate emergency, they have granted permission for uninsurable housing on land that floods.”

In response to the concerns raised, a Planning Inspectorate spokesman said: “We can confirm we received a formal complaint from the Rossett Focus Group.

“All complaints are taken seriously and investigated. We will respond to the Rossett Focus Group after our enquiries have been completed.

“Inspectors are independent and impartial. When making a decision they give full consideration to evidence submitted at the time of the appeal taking account of current planning legislation, policies and guidance.”

The Welsh Government has been asked to comment.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)

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