Plans to build nearly 200 new houses on land in Rhosrobin have been granted on appeal, with claims that the site was so easily developable that in theory work could start on it by the end of the year.
The outline application for up to 189 properties on land east of Tan y Bont, just off Llay New Road, had been refused by Wrexham Council’s planning committee in March 2017, due to concerns of the use of green barrier space and the coalescence of Rhosrobin and Pandy
The plans were the second of their kind to be submitted for the site, with proposals put forward in 2014 to develop up to 400 homes on the entire stretch of land between the two villages above.
Earlier this year Wrexham.com reported that an inspector had been appointed date for a public hearing had been set nearly two years after the application had launched the initial appeal.
During the hearing the a lack of new houses being built in Wrexham had been used as justification for the development – despite arguments from a council planning officer that sufficient housing land had been allocated in the LDP (Local Development Plan).
Now nearly four months after the public hearing, it has been confirmed that the planning inspector, Kay Sheffield, has allowed the application on appeal and planning permission be granted.
In making her decision Ms Sheffield explains that whilst the plans would “constitute inappropriate development in the green barrier”, the proposal “provides a realistic opportunity to accommodate residential growth in a sustainable location”.
The appeal documents notes the council “…has neither an up to date Unitary Development Plan, or an adopted Local Development Plan and therefore the Inspector states it is considered to have a zero housing land supply.”
She continues onto say: “Given the current position in respect of the Council’s housing land supply, the identified need to bring sites forward for development prior to the adoption of the LDP if the housing trajectory is to be achieved, and there being no immediate prospect of completions from proposed allocations in the LDP, I am in agreement with the parties that considerable weight should continue to be attributed to the need to increase housing land supply in the determination of the appeal.
“Furthermore, the site could be developed with the minimum of delay and would thus make a significant contribution to housing numbers at a time when a significant increase in completions is required.
The addendum report also seems appear to merge Wrexham and Flintshire together, noting that: “The appeal site lies within the green wedge between Bradley, Rhosrobin, Gwersyllt, Broughton and Wrexham.”
The documents also contain the arguments put forward both for and against the development, with Wrexham Council stating that “whilst the LDP has not reached a stage where the plan as a whole can be afforded significant weight, the review is robust and justifies the retention of the appeal site as a green wedge”.
It adds: “Notwithstanding this, the appeal site lies outside of a settlement limit and within a Green Barrier.
“The development would result in the coalescence of Wrexham and Old Rhosrobin and would cause significant harm to the openness of the Green Barrier separating Old Rhosrobin and Pandy. The development is therefore contrary to Policies PS1 and EC1 of the UDP.
“Furthermore, the site is proposed to be afforded the same level of protection in the LDP. The Council therefore respectfully reiterates its request that the appeal be dismissed.”
However the appellants argued that the development would “strengthen the separation of Rhosrobin and Pandy”.
They also challenge the lack of housing land supply available to Wrexham Council and say that a “reserved matters application could be submitted within approximately three months of an outline permission being granted and a start on site could be made within three months of these matters being approved.”
However despite acknowledging that the development does fall within the green barrier, the planning inspector notes that the “housing land supply situation constitutes very exceptional circumstances which outweigh the harm the development would cause to the Green Barrier.”
The inspector adds that 25 per cent of the dwellings would be affordable housing and that the development “is in a sustainable location being well related to local services and facilities and accessible by sustainable means of transport.”
The Planning Inspectorate received eight responses to the Council’s letter regarding the appeal, with the Council’s Service Manager Environment recommending that any permission should include conditions requiring access into the site via a roundabout junction on Main Road; a traffic signal controlled junction on the B5425 with Plas Acton Road and a footway/cycleway across the site linking Main Road with Plas Acton Road.
Cadw confirmed that the development would cause significant damage to the setting of Wat’s Dyke. However it considered that the implementation of the ‘Strategic Asset Maintenance Management Plan’, the contents of which it has agreed, ‘would mitigate and compensate for the damage that would be caused to the setting’ and therefore if implemented Cadw raised no objection to the development.
Gwersyllt Community Council maintained its objection on the grounds that the location of the site outside the settlement and within the Green Barrier was contrary to policies which seek to protect open countryside and safeguard the character of villages. It considered that other proposals for new development in the area were putting the community under great pressure, contrary to the spirit of the Wales Spatial Plan which promotes the building of sustainable communities whilst retaining their character and distinctiveness.
In addition to the matters reported above, concerns were also raised regarding the effect of the proposals on wildlife including protected bats, Great Crested newts and grass snakes; air quality; flooding; insufficient number of affordable housing units; and the effect on local services including insufficient capacity at local schools and doctors’ surgeries.
In conclusion the inspector said: “Although the proposal would be inappropriate development within the Green Barrier, very exceptional circumstances have been found to exist which clearly outweigh the harm, in accord with Policies PS1 and EC1 of the UDP.
“I have not found any other matters which weigh against the appeal.”
“For these reasons, and having had regard to all other matters raised, I recommend that the appeal be allowed, subject to the conditions as set out in the Schedule to the report.
“In reaching my recommendation I have taken into account the requirements of sections 3 and 5 of the Well Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
“I consider that this decision is in accordance with the Act’s sustainable development principle, through its contribution towards the Welsh Ministers’ well-being objective of supporting safe, cohesive and resilient communities.”
It is anticipated that a more detailed, reserved matters application will be submitted to Wrexham Council for consideration in the near future, and if the claims over the promptness of development come true, developments could occur on site before the end of this year.
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