Posted: Tue 13th Oct 2020

“This farce needs to end now”: Wrexham’s mayor calls for development plan to be thrown out over Gypsy and Traveller site selections for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

The mayor of Wrexham has called for a planning blueprint to be rejected after describing the process used to select Gypsy and Traveller sites as a “farce”.

Wrexham Council previously attracted major criticism after inspectors overseeing its Local Development Plan (LDP), identified a “serious failing” in the way it picked land for caravan sites in Llay, Brymbo and Hanmer.

Planning officers were forced to go back to the drawing board and reassess more than 400 possible locations in order to address their concerns.

However, while they have now chosen to remove the Hanmer plot from the document based on their findings, a former sewerage works at Coed Y Felin Road, Brymbo and land at Alyn Waters Country Park, Llay have been kept in.

It comes despite lead inspectors Sian Worden and Melissa Hall questioning the inclusion of the green barrier site at the country park, which has attracted opposition from the local community.

Wrexham’s mayor Rob Walsh, who represents Llay on the local authority, slammed officers for their decision and said there was a public perception that they had a “vendetta” against his village.

In a letter to the two inspectors, he said: “This whole process has done an incredible amount of damage to Wrexham County Borough Council’s reputation.

“It has destroyed the Llay community’s trust in a public body that is supposed to be there to help them.
“This illogical selection methodology will only reinforce residents’ views that Wrexham’s planning officers have a vendetta against the Llay community.
“It has already breached the Race Relations Act that quoted at the last hearing that states that no site selection should be detrimental to the existing community.
“Taking away part of our local country park and evicting two community organisations will achieve that.”

He added: “This farce needs to end now. I think the only way Wrexham will be achieve a robust Local Development Plan is if independent planners come in from outside and start the process from scratch.”

The issues raised by the inspectors led to the LDP consultation process being suspended in June.

The council said it spent the following three months checking all the data on the 419 council-owned sites suggested to accommodate Gypsies and Travellers.

It insisted officers had addressed any inconsistencies or changes in circumstances since the assessment was undertaken in 2017.

In his own letter to the inspectors, chief planning officer Lawrence Isted said: “The re-run assessment identified only one suitable and deliverable site (Brymbo), but this site has insufficient capacity to provide for all of the identified need over the plan period.

“Many sites, including the previously allocated site near Hanmer  failed this time because of the prominence now given to proximity of sites to settlements/services.

“The site near Llay failed because it is in a country park and green wedge.

“Because the council has a statutory duty under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 to provide for all of the identified need, and failing to do so over the plan period would render the plan unsound, it was necessary to re-run the assessment a second time to find one or more additional sites.”

He added: “The second re-run of the assessment identified only one site (New Road, Llay).

“This site has sufficient capacity, with the Brymbo site, to meet all of the residual need for 16 pitches over the plan period.”

Following the submission of a number of responses to the council’s latest report, Ms Worden and Ms Hall will now consider whether the matter can be dealt with representations or whether further hearings will be needed.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter

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