Posted: Mon 10th Jun 2024

Council Leader calls for ‘impartial’ external officers to carry out work amid “concerns’ over solar development for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Wrexham’s Council Leader has raised ‘serious concerns’ over a planning application and has warned “every elected member within this council should be concerned” about the matter.

Lightsource bp wants to build solar panels on a site covering an area the size of nearly 170 football pitches on the Plas Power Estate off Ruthin Road.

Details of the scheme were outlined in a report to Wrexham Council’s planning committee last week (report here) where the local authority’s chief planning officer David Fitzsimon sought delegated powers from members to prepare and submit an impact report on the application.

Mr Fitzsimon said delegated authority was required so the council’s planning department could respond within a five-week deadline set by Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).

He said failing to do so would see the authority miss out on a fee of £7,700 paid out for a timely response.

However, independent council leader Mark Pritchard said giving the responsibility to officers would result in the views of local politicians being ignored. asked Council Leader Mark Pritchard – who represents Rhostyllen – about his extraordinary comments at the meeting, which appeared to suggest officers had prejudged the matter, alongside an inference there would be welcome benefit to the planning department financially due to wider budget cuts.

Cllr Pritchard told “I was disappointed. As a local member, there was no pre discussion with me, or any of the local members where the development has an impact.

Speaking about the £7k financial element and 14 day timelines of the development proposals, he said: “If you missed that deadline, only half of the relevant fees are passed on to the local authority, that concerns me, because it shouldn’t be about money.

“This is a development of significant national importance, no ifs or buts about it. It’s gigantic.

“The planning committee, in my opinion, gave their powers away to the delegation for officers to do this piece of work.

“I don’t think officers should be doing the work, because in my opinion, yes, they have prejudged it. They’ve said in the past they support it.

“I would have preferred to bring in somebody completely impartial to do this piece of work and then we know there’s nothing untoward.

“It does worry me, I’ve spoken to the Chief Executive about it. I have made my position clear, the planning, ecology, biodiversity, air quality, everything involved within this process needs to be looked at.

“The other thing is officers have met them and had discussions with regards to which routes it will take across the land ownership, with regards to the connection to Scottish Power.

“I’m the Lead Member of Assets – nobody has spoken to me about it.

“So it has started to concern me, that’s why I spoke robustly against it. The planning committee, elected members, have to be impartial. But also the officers have to be as well.

“It concerns me, it’s all there for everybody to see. I don’t hide away from things. I tackle it face on. In my opinion, totally my opinion, it was wrong – but I do respect democracy.

“I will be asking for a report to come to the executive board, because it’s starting to worry me. I have serious concerns in what’s going on here with regards to this application.

“I was hoping that this wouldn’t become an issue, that a common sense approach would would move forward on it, that the Planning Committee would have insisted that the report comes back at certain points for an update and whether they support it.

“I think every elected member within this council should be concerned.”

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