(This page last updated 22nd January 2011)

Overview

The Appeal decision was announced on 10th December, and to our great regret, the Inspector allowed the appeals. You can see the Inspectors report here.

We are deeply disappointed at the decision to allow the building to remain, and consider that this decision sets dangerous precedents.

  1. The Appellant has not been penalised for many serious breaches of planning rules, but instead has been rewarded by the grant of retrospective consent which thereby authorise those breaches of the planning code.
  2. A signal is sent out to other developers that you can build more or less what you like, as long as it doesn’t differ too much from what you have permission for, provided you have the resources to go to appeal.
  3. This case shows that as so called “third-parties”, we, along with Newport Town Council and the rest of the community have no rights under the planning system to appeal against flawed grants of planning permission by incompetent planning authorities. We think this case makes a travesty of the planning system, which has been shown to be incapable of controlling a powerful and wealthy developer

It is important to note that the Inspector acknowledged that the "as built" dwelling breaches planning policies in numerous ways, and these are listed below.

We think that it is outrageous and highly disturbing that a development which everyone now acknowledges was unauthorised and built without the benefit of planning permission and a development which both the National Park Committee and Officers and now the Government Inspector himself all agree is not in compliance with planning policies, should be granted permission in this way, and allowed to stay.

Drawing of house from approved 2006 application

Why the Inspector was wrong: We believe that the Inspector was wrong, in law, in a number of ways but especially in deciding to allow agreements made about the levels after the foundations were constructed to stand. He has decided that the "as constructed" dwelling is at the correct level. He chose to ignore all the evidence that the building should have been set a full storey lower - look at the picture from the approved drawings on the right.

He chose to ignore the fact that the 2006 permission has a condition which required the appellant to agree levels before the foundations were constructed. Had that been done, then the planners would surely have insisted on the levels being as shown in the drawings. But instead, by the time the planners first visited the site, the foundations had been poured at a much higher level than implied by the drawings and other evidence. The requirement for the building to be much lower was also spelled out in letters such as this, which asked for the building to have the aspect of a two rather than a three storey building. The developer ignored the condition and letter, and even his own diagrams, and the inspector chose to reward him for doing so! There are many other items of evidence that the development was intended to be set much lower; many of these are listed in our "What Happened" page which covers what went on back in 2006.

Is this a two storey house?

Summary of the findings

The Inspector, in the first part of the decision, agrees with us that the building breaches planning policies in many serious respects. This confirms that the 2006 decision of the National Park Authority to grant permission was a flagrant mistake. The inspector’s long list of breaches of policy includes:

  • “..the completed building would be visually intrusive and insensitively sited within the protected landscape of the National Park due to its scale, design and location on rising ground above the coastal scene.”
  • “..it also currently impinges upon the level of amenity enjoyed by local people particularly on the appearance of this part of the town and adjoining countryside”
  • “In those views of the northern elevation from near and far, the building has a 3-storey appearance, with much reflective glazing in the main living room gable.”
  • “..when completed, the building would fail to harmonise with, or enhance the landform and landscape character of the National Park as required by Policy 15 of the LDP.”
  • “.. Due to the prominence and scale of the 2- and 3-storey elevations, the building is incompatible with its surroundings and due to the visually intrusive nature of the building I conclude that the retention and completion of the development would have an unacceptable impact on local amenity contrary to LDP Policy 30.
  • On sustainable development: “the large modern dwelling that has been built on the site fails to meet many of the criteria of the approved LDP policies.”

However, the overriding consideration for the Inspector was the existence of the deeply flawed 2006 permission, which would allow the developer to construct a building which he judged to be similar.

The reason for allowing the appeals, as we see it, is that the Inspector believes that since the developer has permission to build something that the Inspector sees would be equally as bad, there is no point in pulling down the existing illegal building. As explained above, BNOG contends that permission was not given to construct a 3 storey building at this level or in this location on the site and therefore the development is very different from the 2006 approved scheme. If the new permission granted by the Inspector can be quashed, implementation of the 2006 scheme would mean a development much less prominent and visually intrusive in the landscape.

One other point to emerge at the Inquiry was that the unauthorised development was built to the Building Regulation Drawings (of which the National Park had no knowledge until much later) and not to the Stamped Approved Drawings. It was "without the benefit of planning permission". The appellant's barrister even argued at the Inquiry that the As-built dwelling is not an implementation of the 2006 consent.

 

View from public footpath above Bettws Newydd

Conclusion

This decision means that the community and many visitors to this area will continue experience the effects of this eyesore due to the dreadful mistake made by the National Park planners when they granted the original permission back in 2006.

We deeply regret that this means that the efforts of ourselves, of all our supporters, and the Planning Committee Members to rectify the mistakes of the officers have all been in vain. We also regret that the planners’ mistakes will now be protected from further legal scrutiny, by way of an action for a claim for compensation from this developer.

We sought advice as to whether we had any viable prospect of seeking a remedy, in respect of the Inspector’s decision, by challenging what we believe are the mistakes he made. However, it appears that a legal challenge is not possible as the Inspector's view is a matter of "Planning Judgement". What a sorry state our planning laws seem to be in! We will also continue to pursue the National Park to ensure that the many failings this dreadful case has revealed are addressed and that action is taken to ensure there is no repetition, in accordance with our second aim.

Postscript - serious error found.

It has emerged (March 2011) that the Inspector made what we consider to be a serious mistake in his report. He omitted conditions relating to lighting and cables that a different part of the report states that he intended to apply.

During the Appeals Inquiry, members of BNOG fought hard to ensure that the Inspector understood the importance of “dark skies” in this area of Newport. The consultants representing the National Park put forward an appropriately worded condition (suggested condition 8) to cover this. As a result, the Inspector included in the text of his decision, “I also find condition 8 to be essential for the control of external lighting on the site because this area of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is suscepible to light pollution from any insensitive form of light source.” (paragraph 49) However, the Inspector has now admitted to BNOG that an error has been made in not in fact including condition 8 (and also another condition relating to the undergrounding of cables) in the schedule of conditions attached to the Appeals Decision.

Not only the Inspector, but also the National Park Officers failed to pick this up. Apparently the error cannot now be corrected - see this letter.

We have therefore raised this matter with the National Park Monitoring Officer who could still take action on this. Is there no limit to the number of mistakes that the planners can make on this case?

 

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