Posted: Thu 22nd Nov 2018

Wrexham’s Local Development Plan passes key vote – will now be formally lodged for public inspection for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Nov 22nd, 2018

Wrexham Council have voted to ‘deposit’ its Local Development Plan (LDP) with Welsh Government and Planning Inspectorate Wales for independent examination in public.

After a shorter than expected debate in the Guildhall this afternoon a recorded vote took place after a request by a large number of councillors, with the LDP passing 30 in favour and 17 against.

Back in 2012 it was announced that progress on Wrexham Council’s original new LDP had been halted after Planning Inspector concerns with the level of housing provision proposed within it, and since then the area has been without a LDP, although that situation could now change next year.

Today’s vote was expected to be tight after a number of councillors both inside and out of the ruling Independent and Conservative coalition last week voiced there concerns about the plans and the long-term impact it could have on Wrexham, however despite strong words by many councillors against, the issue passed with ease.

The debate was limited to five minutes per councillor, a new approach to rein in the sometimes long winded and wide ranging speeches by some, and the verdict after the meeting appeared to favour that approach.

With the LDP progressing to Cardiff an independent ‘Examination in Public’ will take place, likely based somewhere in Wrexham town centre, where members of the public get to feedback further, as well as see their current consultation responses be considered. After the recent Executive Board meeting it was promised at the lodging point more information will be made public for those who requested it.

Llay Cllr Rob Walsh, Liberal Democrat, said residents in the village had “already been victims of predatory development and now see a predatory plan looking them in the eye” and urged his fellow councillors to vote against the LDP.

“I’m aware that some of my fellow councillors think this is a weak plan but intend to vote for it anyway to allow full examination in public,” Cllr Walsh continued.

“I’m sorry, but that is a failure of duty as an elected member.

“If you vote to approve today, it becomes councillors plan. Well not in my name, i’ll vote against and urge other to.”

Cllr Walsh also moved that a recorded vote took place, a proposal that was supported by Conservative councillor for Brymbo, Paul Rogers and later by many more.

Cllr Rogers, who has spoken out about proposals for a gypsy and traveller site in his ward, said there was a “determination to force this through” and urged his colleagues to “do the right thing and reject this plan”.

Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru, said today “is our last chance as democratic representatives to have our say, how we vote matters”.

“There are two choices in front of us. To approve the plan to go out or to refuse to approve it. If we refuse it the Welsh Government will put it out for examination for us. This plan will have its detail examined.

“I urge you to look at the bigger picture. This LDP has been developed on the basis the population is growing substantially. It is not a proposal based on facts.

“Allocating land for two huge estates and others will suit predatory developers, and that people are against. It will reduce the quality of life for Wrexham residents.”

He added: “As a group Plaid Cymru are not opposed to allocating land to build new homes to meet need, we are opposed to building houses that are not needed.

“We have to stand up and say no to Welsh Government projections, no this is not our plan and we have to reject this recommendation today.”

However leader of Wrexham Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard said that whilst he sympathised with councillors and their ward issues, it is important that “people go and make those points clear when it goes to examination”.

He added: “I have issues with certain parts, but i will make representation at the right place and time. It is not the place to say throw out and send back to Welsh Government and we and don’t support it

“It is always better if you can have an input and influence it. If you throw it out it becomes a national development plan outside our ownership.”

However Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Dana Davies, said the plan needs to “stay local” and that councillors should not “abdicate our responsibility” to any government.

She continued that although members of the group have concerns about plan – particularly about the lack of social housing – the planning inspector can “choose to make changes to the plan or throw it out completely.”

Cllr Davies said; “The elephant in the room is what happened at LDP 1. The process in LDP 2 has changed, we don’t get a third shot.

“If we don’t keep the plan local, then it goes off and it’s a national development plan that could be enforced.”

Such sentiments were echoed by Cllr David Griffiths, Independent councillor for Gwersyllt east and south, who said: “We can’t please everyone, this plan doesn’t please everyone. It is our plan, warts and all. There is a chance to voice concerns to an independent person.

“I would sooner be in the tent then outside the tent, and burying our heads in the ground.”

Conservative councillor and deputy leader of Wrexham Council, Hugh Jones, said there he felt the LDP was “flawed in content and process”.

Cllr Jones said: “It ignores the over stretched services of hospitals and communities. It is flawed as it ignores a whole raft of Planning Policy Wales guidance and elements of Well-being and Futures legislation.”

“It brings forward land which five major insurance companies would refuse to give cover due to flooding risk.”

As a counter point had been made that blocking the progress of the LDP would be anti-democratic as it would mean the public would not get a further say Cllr Jones queried via a point of order if such a rejection and subsequent ‘forced’ request from the Welsh Government would rule out any such public comments. The Legal Officer indicated that such a choice would be in the gift of Welsh Government, and would not be something that could be judged locally at that point.

Cllr Kelly wrapped up the debate, with no further comment from the Officer sat by him.

Councillors were asked to stand to indicate if they would support a call for a recorded vote, and with clearly more than ten councillors rising to their feet a roll call vote was backed.

One by one each councillor had their name read out and called out if they were for or against the motion – with the LDP vote passing.

The meeting then moved to a short ten minute break while the public gallery cleared and business moved to secret ‘Part 2’ to discuss ‘Senior Management Structure’ and ‘Review of Senior Manager Pay 2019/2020’.

Our tweets from the meeting are below in reverse order…

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