Wrexham’s Local Development Plan passes key vote – will now be formally lodged for public inspection
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.
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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…
Shorter than we were expecting debate – but the LDP vote has passed – so meeting about to head to Part 2 secret debate on senior pay / management structures – 10 min break called link
Cllrs standing to see if will be a recorded vote – well over ten stand up – so names will be called and recorded….
Cllr Kelly says the LDP is ‘not the holy grail but a conduit’, gives a family saying “it is the oven you put the cakes in in the first place” adding some sites will go into the oven and some will rise and some will not rise.
Cllr Kelly unhappy that implication from many councillors that Officers have ‘withheld information’. Adds some detailed site assessment has not been done yet and should not be expected to be done. ‘I do not believe anything has deliberately been withheld’.
Cllr Kelly takes exception to the use of the word of ‘flawed’ and ‘unsound’ by several councillors, “The inspector will decide if the plan is flawed or unsound’.
@wrexham The inference that WAG will impose the LDP without an EIP is clearly incorrect – the Legal Officer has confirmed that WAG has the power to direct an EIP – how could they possibly not..??!
Clr Kelly as the member presenting the report gets a chance to reply along with the Officer with him. Then will move to see if it is a recorded vote (we think will be) then the vote itself.
Clr Hugh Jones with point of order, asks if public of Wrexham will have a chance to make representations if the plan is not voted through ie. Welsh Gov take it. Legal Officer gives some guidance, so appears that would be in gift of the Welsh Gov.
Clr Michael Dixon has read out sections of what we think is this statement. “If we do not submit a plan one will be imposed on us”, says will support with misgivings. No more speakers. link
Clr Pritchard wraps up “Councillors who don’t support it here today. You are denying the rights of our constituents a voice at that time and place when it goes on examination.”
Clr Pritchard says he has ‘confidence’ that those against the LDP will ‘win the day’ if their concerns are valid when there is an independent inspection. Adds he has issues with some of the LDP himself, but will make those ‘at the right time’.
Council Leader Pritchard says he will support LDP, to a heckle of ‘theres a surprise’ from public gallery. Clr Pritchard says it is important to follow democratic process & ‘does not want anarchy and mayhem’, says throwing it to Welsh Gov is the ‘easy’ decision.
Cllr Graham Rogers says ‘destiny in our own plans’ if plan supported and therefore will be – shout of ‘disgraceful’ from public gallery.
Officer also unaware of the statement. (Content of the statement attached to this tweet… ! ) PIC:
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Cllr Kelly says he is ‘not aware’ of the statement.
Clr Gwenfair Jones refers to this announcement and asks how it will affect the LDP. Cllr Kelly and Officer have a chat. link
Cllr Atkinson says lots of people in Gresford have asked him to support the LDP, contrasts that to lots of Cllrs saying the reverse. Adds he knows of a ‘significant number’ of houses to be possibly built in Gresford ahead of LDP coming in as ‘developers want to beat the clock’
Tweet from the public gallery… link
Cllr Morris refers to Cllrs who have pointed out Wrexham just could not cope with a large expansion. He says infrastructure wont come before knowing where development will be taking place, which is the idea behind the LDP. ‘We will never get a plan that satisfies 52 cllrs’
Cllr Morris refers to the Planning Policy Panel that he chairs and fed into the LDP, notes ‘all sites voted on’ and ‘all been done via the democratic process by majority vote’.
Cllr Morris rises to his feet as a beeper sounds, Mayor generously gives him his full five minute allocation… !
Clr Skelland not supporting LDP, says plan will create a ‘commuter workforce’. Adds gypsy & traveller site in Hanmer will affect the locality. Says a dairy and goat farm are 300 yards away, ‘plus a listed building nearby’ and it ‘is not fair on local residents’.
Cllr Jones disputes that letting LDP proceed today is a good thing for democracy and is ‘misleading’ – says 2000 of 8000 houses will be determined before the plan even comes back and it is anti democratic.
Cllr Hugh Jones says the consultation process was is also flawed. Has a pop at the Officer and fellow Exec Board member sat two metres infront of him, saying land quality issue was played down at the recent Exec Board meeting.
Cllr Hugh Jones says will not be supporting the LDP, there is ‘evidence the plan is flawed’. Claims insurance co’s could refuse cover on some sites due to flood risk. Contrasts Council’s own recent policy on agricultural land against plan to develop on some in the LDP.
Cllr Griffiths echos elements of Clr Davies points, sees the LDP being passed to an ‘independent pair of eyes’ as a positive step. ‘I would sooner be in the tent than outside burying my head’ adding ‘it wont go away’.
Cllr Davies adds ‘this plan needs to stay local that is how we can influence it’ says that is ‘true democracy’ (Cardiff deciding on local planning appeal issues not democratic then? 🤓)
Cllr Dana Davies points that this vote is to send to an independent examination not adoption, and the LDP could be chucked out during that: ‘the elephant in the room is that is what they did with LDP1’. Warns not voting for it to proceed could mean loss of local control.
Clr Mike Davies says he wont be voting for the LDP, says he has not had a single piece of positive feedback to it from those is his ward, contrasting that to lots of negative comments.
Clr Barrie Warburton says he has been listening to those in Gwersyllt who he represents, and therefore will be voting against the LDP. Short and sweet.
Clr Nigel Williams unhappy with the LDP, praises Planning Policy Panel work, but unhappy several issues were ‘not done properly’ due to the info from councils planning department.
Clr Brian Cameron says will support the LDP to go forward to allow the public to have their say which would happen during the next stage. (An actual ‘b0ooo’ from the public gallery)
Clr Parry-Jones ‘stands with Cllr Rogers and Cllr Walsh’ adds ’I am convinced information was withheld’. Says the consultation response was a ‘loud voice from the public’, warns running the risk of ‘being a council in crisis’ if ignored. Gets applause.
Clr Paul Rogers opposes the plan, says he believes there is a ‘determination to force this through by officers’. Notes a land contamination report was released last week, but only after a FOI for it was refused.
Clr Geoff Lowe says he has ‘serious concerns’ ‘if true’ that officers are being selective with information shared to councillors on the LDP. Goes a little off topic asking about the quality of materials used by Wrexham Council to repair roads in Wrexham.
This has just turned up in our inbox – bearing in mind LDP debate is based around population figures. Wonder if Cllrs in chamber are aware of it? “today I am able to announce new arrangements for calculating housing need in Wales…” 🤔 PIC:
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Clr Bryan Apsley echos previous comments, contrasts the massive cuts being made by the council to the apparent open attitude to spend to challenge covenants. Highly critical of the process in his speech, “a site not in the top 75 has now become number 1!”
Clr Tina Mannering says LDP is ‘unsound’ and has concerns that Cllrs have not been given full facts, says some have been ‘chosen’, and some not given to Cllrs. Says it makes consultation by Wrexham Council like a ‘tick box’ exercise.
Clr Edwards says ‘this is an LDP strongly pushed by Officers’ and adds ‘this is not a plan about members, but what vision officers have about Wrexham’. Beeper goes off indicating he has had his 5mins – Mayor indicates to wrap up – ‘yeah, alright’ 😃
More seriously Clr Edwards notes consultation responses from 750 people about highways issues on one site, refers to Officer response to him after noting it that they ‘have vested interests’, queries the point of consultations if residents are effectively ignored.
Clr Alan Edwards starts his point saying he has been given a wobbly table!
Clr Marc Jones critical of the basis of the LDP, says population projections are fundamentally wrong. Says large housing estates on A483 corridor will suit developers but not the people of Wrexham.
Cllr Harper says there has been ’20 years of overdevelopment in this town’ and public are against further development. “If the Welsh Gov want this plan, let them endorse it” Says Lesley Griffiths AM should explain the ‘concreting over’ of the town if WG did take it up.
47 now as Cllr Hemmings has arrived !
Clr Harper asks Cllrs if they have been to A&E lately, and how WCBC services would cope with a 20% housing growth – noting the plan with the bleak public finances locally and nationally. Adds road networks are gridlock anyway without the extra demand if plan delivered.
Cllr Walsh says many cllrs have told him they think the LDP is ‘weak’ but will be voting for it anyway, says they are ‘failing in their duty’ if they take that course of action. Says ‘not in my name’ and urges others not to vote for it. Asks for recorded vote.
Clr Pritchard seconds the report, and the floor is opened for speakers. Cllr Walsh is first with hand up, says opposition is not due to gypsy and traveller site – says rejected sites have been readded to the LDP with no explanation. Reads out huge list of issues he has with it.
Cllr Kelly runs Cllrs through the LDP overview report. If agreed today LDP will be submitted at the end of month. Examination in public will start Spring through to the Summer. Acknowledges concerns of Cllrs, asks to consider a bigger picture & warns of ‘predatory development’.
46 councillors in the room at the start of the debate, Cllr Lowe declared personal and prejudicial interest and left the meeting before the item. Others sent apologies.
The early business gives indication of how this debate and vote is being treated – Legal Officer is reminding cllrs what a point of order actually is or is not. Shame, as there are some entertaining ones chucked out sometimes 🤓
Some Cllrs running late due to ‘parking problems’ – not 100% sure but sometimes the members car park is used when the lights switch on is on, are they having to park like normal people today?!
Mayor opens meeting asking for a decent LDP debate – says each councillor will get one time slot of five minutes each – warns of ‘a little background noise’ from lights switch on. Will do headcount, but in theory limits meeting to 4+ hrs (!)
More and more public turning up – banners banned in public gallery so here is a sample from outside earlier PIC:
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One of the biggest votes in years in this chamber… no Newsquest (Leader) Reach (Daily Post) BBC / ITV … or any other media here. Assume all are watching the webcast 👍 Good turn out in public gallery from members of public tho!
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