Controversial plans to develop over 360 homes on land in Llay once again came under fire by councillors and the public yesterday evening.
At a sometimes heated and fraught meeting, planning committee members voted to defer a decision on a revised matters application for the land at Gresford Road until a site visit has taken place.
Outline plans for the site, which at the time consisted of up to 365 houses and a retail unit, had been rejected by members of the planning committee in October 2015 due to concerns about the development falling outside the settlement limit and the increased pressure on local infrastructure.
However an appeal by the applicants was lodged shortly afterwards and an inquiry into the the proposed took place in November 2016. The plans were granted last summer by First Minister Carwyn Jones after being recommended for approval by Planning Inspectorate Richard Duggan.
A revised application, consisting of 362 homes, had been recommended for approval by the council’s head of environment and planning.
However this was disputed by some committee members and public speakers, who argued that the revised matters application hadn’t addressed traffic issues, pedestrian safety and play areas for children.
Dennis Owen, who spoke on behalf of Gresford Road Action Group, also called for alleged issues with land stability on the site to be revisited and addressed.
He said that in 2014 the group had obtained documents from the Bersham Colliery Museum identifying the position and direction of mine tunnels associated with Llay Main Colliery. He stated that such documents had been offered but were declined (more here).
Mr Owen said: “We have been advised that the issue involving land stability should not be revisited, we have taken legal advice on this matter and as the problems relate to flooding and stability on Home Farm is ongoing and has increased dramatically over the last four years, they therefore should and must be addressed.”
But the meeting was told the land had been classed as low risk by the Coal Authority and that Wrexham Council had followed the correct procedures.
The meeting was also reminded that planning permission for the site had already been approved and the committee members could only vote on the reserved matters application before them.
Similar comments about land subsidence were made by planning consultant Rebecca Hilton, who spoke on behalf of the applicants for the site – Anwyl Construction and Bellway Homes.
She said: “Both applicants are aware of the objections raised at the outline as part of the appeal and carried out their own intrusive investigations in acquiring the site
“The officer’s report provides substantial detail on this matter. The proposed layout pays full regard to land stability
“The Coal Authority will not allow development to take place that will put people at risk. The inspector, Coal Authority and your officers have found no reason to with hold permission in relation to land stability.”
Cllr Rob Walsh, who previously spoke out about the plans for Home Farm, said that the appeal decision had caused a lot of “grief and heartache” and called for committee members to propose a site visit before making a final decision on the plans.
He added: “My major concern is The Crown crossroads. I know the condition stipulates there will be plan to show improvements to cross roads. As it states in the addendum there is no requirement to put this forward at this time and that it would be unreasonable to refuse reserved matters
“I think it would be unreasonable to approve this without knowing what the plans are. It is a very busy junction and desperate need of working being done. It is a shame the highways officer is not here for that reason.
“Once the plans are done it might work out perfectly. It might marry and complement the existing site but it might not. It will be too late then if already approved reserved matters.”
Chairman of the committee, Cllr Mike Morris noted that he had found out an hour before the meeting that a highways officer would not be in attendance, and that the Council no longer have deputies to cover.
Cllr I David Bithell said he remembered refusing the application three years ago and questioned the lack of play areas on the site and pedestrian safety onto the Gresford Road.
It was noted explained that “play areas will be incorporated at various intervals on the green network, always intended to be the case”.
After an hour long debate a vote saw a majority of councillors support a site visit for further clarification on highways and traffic issues, along with where public open space areas would be located.
A decision on the revised matters application is expected to be made by committee members after a site visit on Friday 10th August. Once again the post site meeting visit will take place at 4pm and members of the public can attend the meeting or watch via the council’s webcasting system.