Councillors reject 130 new homes in Rossett – Officer report recommending approval blasted by some
Controversial plans to build more than 130 homes on green barrier land in Rossett have been rejected by councillors, with some unhappy with the council officer recommending it for approval.
After a lengthy two hour debate last night members of Wrexham Council’s planning committee voted by a majority of twelve to three to refuse plans to develop housing on two areas of land near Lane Farm in Rossett, Wrexham.
The plans had been submitted by Bellis Brothers Limited, which claimed that the application for 132 houses would play a ‘key part’ in the village’s growth.
Under the proposals, a plot of land earmarked to the north of the farm would have 61 homes built on it, while a site to the south would have 71.
A total of 74 objections 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.
Despite the local opposition the plans had been recommended for approval by the head of environment and planning at Wrexham Council, Lawrence Isted, in a move that several councillors questioned.
The recommendation to approve was challenged by Cllr Hugh Jones, who represents the Rossett ward, who argued that the officer’s report went against both local and national planning policies and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Cllr Jones branded the report ‘perverse’, and was unhappy with the council’s planning officers saying the report was ‘selective’. Later he explained he felt that some evidence had been ‘ignored as it does not fit in with desire to recommend approval’.
Cllr Jones also effectively accused the agent for the applicant of lying, noting that the site hadn’t been approved by councillors to feature in the Local Development Plan, rather it been submitted for the Inspector to have opportunity to independently analyse these sites in public, contrary to a claim the site was ‘supported and endorsed by members at full council’.
He urged committee members to refuse the application, stating: “The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act talks about working collaboratively. There were 74 objections by the local community that have been dismissed without any appropriate response.
“The doctors surgery is full and there is no additional capacity.
“The schools are full – the answer is Section 106 money, but look at the sites of the schools. They are already struggling as they are.
“I refer you to inspector’s decision on 2003 UDP inquiry. The inspector said Rossett is a village under development pressure and no further development should be allowed outside the settlement limit.”
He added: “The same department recommending this development made the following submission to the planning inspector about a site around the corner which was green barrier land, ‘Our submission last year to the inspector was that the proposed development was outside settlement and in a designated green barrier. It would represent an unacceptable incursion to the green barrier. It would be a significant encroachment into the countryside and it also sets a precedent for the release of similar locations for residential development’.
“That is from the same planning department trying to get you to recommend this.
“I urge the committee to reject. The development is not needed, it contravenes local and national policy and it is an application and development that the village does not want or need.”
Similar fears about extra pressure on local health and education infrastructure were raised by adjoining ward councillor Rob Walsh, who represents Llay.
Cllr Walsh said: “I believe one of the policies this development breaches in GDP2 and infrastructure. I have already given comments about education and healthcare provision as a result of the extra development in Llay, Rossett and Gresford areas.
“My biggest concern is health provision. This committee refused an application on the Llay Legion site due to the lack of health provision.
“Alyn Family Doctors do a fantastic job, but we have a problem now with residents struggling to get GP appointments.
“If this goes ahead – as well as the Gresford Road development – the Rossett surgery is small and no way will cope with an increase. This will put more pressure on Llay surgery.”
Council highways officer Peter Douthwaite added that he felt there was “adequate reason to refuse due to pedestrian provision” – adding that an increase in traffic and poor pathways could pose a risk to schoolchildren who use that route citing his own observations.
But planning officer Matthew Phillips said the committee are “in a position of being asked to accept the development but to also accept exceptional circumstances in housing supply and delivery.”
He said: “We do not have an up to date LDP, it expired in 2011 and is nearly eight years out of date. It is the oldest development plan in Wales and we are only one of three in Wales without an LDP.
“The most substantive issue is housing land supply. We don’t have five year housing land supply due to UDP being out of date.
“It is clear from rate of completion over previous years that we are not delivering. We are constantly under delivering. This can only be addressed through release of additional land for housing.
“We can only deliver housing requirements throughout green field and green barrier release.
“Achieving that and delivering that relies on bringing sites forward now, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and wait for LDP to be adopted.”
Commenting on fears that the site lies is a flood risk, Mr Phillips explained that neither the senior flood officer in Wrexham council nor Natural Resources Wales have concerns about surface water drainage, a point countered by Cllr Hugh Jones who noted insurance company modelling is often well in advance of public sector systems.
The debate was opened up to committee members more than an hour into the meeting, with councillors warned – with some later ignoring – not to repeat points that have already been made.
Cllr Paul Pemberton kicked off the debate, describing the application as an “important issue that needs to be sorted in fair manner.”
He pointed out that all communities across Wrexham are faced with similar issues doctors surgeries and schools and “with that as an excuse we might as well close the doors of planning department and say no more.”
Cllr Pemberton added that he had felt “bullied” on this application due to some correspondence, and explained that his decision would be made “with the facts before us”.
Cllr Marc Jones, who was amongst those who voted against sending the LDP to inspection last year, said he would be opposing the development.
He said: “We do have to take the LDP claims with a pinch of salt. The original LDP which we passed in 2012 didn’t build on green field sites and that was rejected – the fact of matter is the number of houses then are similar to now.
“We have to ask question why is developer jumping the gun? They don’t want to provide 40 per cent affordable housing, which would be a necessity in LDP.
“If we are saying have to build for LDP then they have to take on constraints of LDP. You can’t have cake and eat it.
“In terms of rejecting it I would on those grounds. The UDP is still valid and the serious concerns highways have about access, we can’t dismiss that.”
Such comments were echoed by chairman of the committee, Cllr Mike Morris, who said that “in an ideal world this would have come in after the examination in public for the LDP”.
Cllr Morris continued: “The assurances we gave members of the public, the indications I had and my perception of things was that members of the public would have chance to test sections of the plan at the LDP inspection.
“By supporting this we are pre-empting that discussion. I don’t want to deny people the chance to speak in public.”
However councillors were warned against rejecting the plans on a prematurity basis could infact be seen as predetermining the LDP outcome, planning officer David Williams reminding the committee of similar comments made by the planning inspectorate in allowing more than 300 homes on Home Farm in Llay.
As a result a vote was taken based off unitary development plan issues, with the council officer’s recommendation for approval therefore defeated.
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