Wednesday June 17th 2009

Bettws Newydd from the beach

The PCNPA Development Management Committee (DMC) met to consider the retrospective application for Bettws Newydd (08/361).

This application was completely refused.

The Committee Members ignored their Officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission and rejected it by a majority of 12 votes to 2, on the grounds that the application does not comply with Development Policies.

This report is based on notes taken by us at the meeting; the official minutes, as usual, omit most of what was discussed. Click here to see the relevant section from the official minutes.

Catherine Milner (CM) (Head of Development Management) spoke first: CM stated that several letters had been received in the previous 48 hours and copies were then distributed to Members. (Unusually there was a short pause whilst they took time to consider these). CM said she didn't expect to have to speak much that day as there had been a long discussion in April and the decision then had been "..to grant planning permission subject to the applicant first submitting and the Authority approving improved landscaping proposals aimed at achieving additional screening, and reconsidering the glazing to address concerns of light pollution and glare... ". Despite the principle of the development having then been agreed, she said, this had continued to be challenged in letters. She repeated that this had been decided in April. CM also stated that the landscaping was never intended to hide the building and although officers admitted to a loss of wetland, one third of the site is now proposed to be covered by semi wetland scrub. She said objectors had queried the use of semi mature trees but CM thought this "a calculated risk well worth taking" and extra planting would ensure losses were replaced. In her opinion this was the best landscaping scheme she had ever seen. With regard to the glazing, the 2006 decision had shown a similar amount and this could not be reduced. Shutters were not a viable solution in planning terms. Thus, in the view of officers the two outstanding matters from the April Meeting had now been addressed and they recommended approval.

The original house

Councillor Robin Evans (RE) then spoke: Cllr Evans stated that he was not prepared to take the officers' approach. He read from the letters received which he said gave information that officers had not supplied to the Committee. For instance, he said to the officers, the new building is nearly 10 metres closer to the entrance than shown on the stamped approved site plan; the elevations are up to 3.5 metres taller from the external ground than those approved; there were no levels on the approved drawings and you have no record of levels subsequently “agreed” by officers so that you are not able to determine whether the building is set at the “right” levels. Cllr Evans then said of the officers that, in regard to the original dwelling, you do not correct your statement made repeatedly since 2006 that the original building was “large”; you do not clearly state that the height of the original of between 4 and 5 metres should be compared with the application dwelling height of 10.5 metres; you do not point out that therefore objectors have been correct all along in stating that the height difference to be noted is 6 metres, nor do you state that the replacement is twice the height of the original.

Ifor Jones (Head of Planning and Conservation) then stated that quotations from a letter addressed to him but that he hadn't actually received were being made (although he had been shown the letter by another before the meeting).

Cllr Tony Brinsden (Chairman) interjected to say that some of the measurements RE was giving compared the application with the original wooden shack, whereas Mrs Milner was "coming from" the differences between the approved and the application. (CM was nodding in agreement).

Cllr Evans then said that so many people had been upset by this development and they aren't all wrong. The JUDP says that the replacement should be a reasonable proportion compared with what was there originally and that is not what they were being shown on the screen in front of them. The site isn't anything like what was there before but is covered in earth and clay. RE then moved that the application be refused. He said, let it be decided on appeal. Otherwise this was going to go on and on.

Fionna Lanc said she was going to say one thing about the building They had been told it is an innovative design. It may be. She did not feel qualified to judge, but even if it were, it is not in the right location. It is not sustainable. But her real concern is the landscape plan. It is now more than 3 years since this was due. We have lost the wetland and it shouldn't have happened. This will set a precedent for other developers if it is passed. The large trees may or may not survive. They are not ideal for the site, and the Committee should not be in this position. This should all have been discussed before it was built. The Committee is now being forced to produce something to cover original mistakes. The course of the stream has been altered and there is now a cut channel directed towards the lower boundary. Before natural drainage patterns absorbed much of the rain water. Now there is nothing to reduce the flow. Now there is a huge hard surface area directing surface water towards other properties with potential for flooding. Fiona Lanc stated she was not going to support the application as it sets a bad example. Habitats had been destroyed. Both as a Member and as a professional expert she was not going to support this loss of biodiversity.

David Prescott (PCNPA Solicitor) then stated that because this is a retrospective application under s. 73 A it has to be judged against the Development Plan. In the Officers' view on balance the application is within policy. The fact that the application is retrospective is not a reason to turn it down. It has to be considered on its planning merits.

CM: We have spent time previously discussing the building itself. We are here to discuss the landscaping and glazing adding ...though there is nothing in law to prevent us going back over the decision.

Mr Ellis wanted to discuss the glass. He said that all that we've got here is a report full of self justification saying the glass is fantastic and we can't do better. The instruction was that the developer should go away and decide how to reduce the impact. They say that reduction of glare is better than with other glass That would be OK to say if this was an ordinarily sized window but this is the size of a football pitch. This is going to be a beacon of light. So nothing has been done. They've just come back and said that's the best we can do.

John Allen-Mirehouse spoke: "I can not support this. It is bad planning, we all know its bad planning, whether landscaped or not."

Christine Gwyther: Every time we come back to this, it is an opportunity to look at policy. I have tried to see if I agree with the officers' report by looking at each referenced policy in turn. For policy 56, I cannot agree. The explanation is ludicrous. That is one person's opinion, not mine. For policy 67, I considered whether this is "sitting sensitively in the landscape" and I concluded it is not. It is "intensifying use incompatible with its location" It fails very, very badly. I have read the correspondence on the landscaping and I can listen to sense: it is not going to alleviate the problem. I share David Ellis' view on the glass. It's fine for the applicant, not fine for us.

Robin Evans then moved that the application be refused, seconded by John Allen-Mirehouse.

The solicitor said they needed to clarify the basis on which refusal was given This seemed to be generally decided to be non compliance with the JUDP. Several Members were suggesting particular policies at the time including 56, 66, 67 and 79 but they were not repeated by the Chairman in articulating the decision. .

The vote was 12 votes to 2 in favour of this proposal with Cllr Brinsden and one other voting against. We were unable to identify who was the second person.

Corrections:

Please send additions or corrections to these notes (See our contact page).

Notes:

The public were not allowed to speak on this matter at the DMC meeting.

 

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