(This page last updated 15th December 2010)

How did this happen?    Can't it be changed?

On this page we will try to answer factually some of the questions that we have been asked and examine how this decision came to be made, and whether there are remedies to correct the situation.

We include verbatim (at the end) the appropriate sections of the minutes from the Development Management Committee (DMC) meetings as published on the National Park web site. We have also highlighted key phrases and added "clickable" notes where we give additional information.


Q: When the site was sold by auction (July 2005) did the National Park tell potential purchasers a huge property would be allowed on this site?

A: Absolutely not. The vendor's agent circulated this plan (for a much lower building) and this response prior to auction. One bidder asked if a higher building would be possible (for a better sea view) but was told, in effect, that it would not. You can view his letter of complaint to the National Park here. Another potential bidder wrote that at the time of the auction, he made enquiries via Vicki Hirst and was deterred from bidding because of the severe restrictions and limitations applying. See full comment here.  Both bidders feel that they and other failed bidders were misled by the National Park Officers - the first of many mistakes by the National Park Planners which has allowed the current huge building to be erected - read on!


Q: Why did the DMC approve the original application?

A: In fact, the DMC never approved the final plans.

Drawing of new house from original application
Curiously for such a significant decision in a sensitive area, which was opposed by many people including the Newport Town Council, consent was delegated to the Chief Executive (National Park Office). See the DMC minutes for 18th March 2006. The minutes document that consent should be "subject to receipt of satisfactory amended plans" which addressed the "height issue". This letter written by Vicki Hirst makes it clear that the DMC expected the height to be reduced such that on one side it was only two stories (she says South, but in fact this is the North side! Did she not know which way round the developer intended to build?). The height was never reduced and no levels were placed on the approved plans, which also show North as South. An Approval Report was issued by the Officers which explains why approval was given and you can read it here. Councillors present at this meeting have subsequently stated that they were told that the replacement dwelling was of 2 storeys, not 3, and was sunk into the landscape - see comments made by councillors in April 2010. Pictures from the approved application shows the sunken nature of the proposals - see the one here.

 

Q: So the concern about "the overall height of the structure" was addressed before approval then?

A: People thought so - the Town Council were told that the height had been reduced. As evidence of this here is an extract from the Report to Newport Town Council of its Planning Committee of 17th August 2006: “Bettws Newydd: There have been modifications to the original plans, reducing the height…” Also assurances were made that the new building would not be "more visually intrusive".


Q: So when was consent granted?
A: Delegated consent was granted on 17th October 2006 by the Officers. See the approval report here. However, the amended plans did not address many of the concerns raised in the minutes especially "the overall height of the structure". As stated above the Town Council were advised that the height had been reduced in the approved plan. It was not, and eventually the building was built even higher than approved.

Q: Why didn't the DMC held in October 2007 require the height to be reduced?
A: It's difficult to answer that from the minutes. But the minutes show that the meeting was led to believe that it could not revoke permission as "the steel structure had been erected in accordance with the approved plan". But we now know that this was not the case (nor is the existing structure in conformance in other ways). We believe that this is a very serious mistake on the part of the Officers advising the committee.


Q: Why didn't anyone complain?
A: There were many complaints, including a formal complaint of mal-administration and, (when the steel shell started to go up) about the fact that the height was greater than expected from the plan. The latter complaints were effectively ignored. Letters sent to the National Park Officers went missing - fortunately we can prove they were sent as copies had been sent to the local Assembly Member, Paul Davies. The former complaint resulted in this report by Ifor Jones which admits to a number of areas where mistakes were made. This is a long report, and you can see a condensed version where we have extracted the key points and highlighted key passages. Click here to see this version.


Q: Is the building constructed at the correct level?
A:
No levels, including the base level, were shown on the originally approved plan and this was not picked up at the time. A planning file note by the enforcement officer states “levels were agreed” on site in February 2007. There is no record of the levels agreed and the Case Officer has written letters more than once to try to obtain a record of levels taken from those who recorded them. However, a letter was sent to the owner at the end of July (5 months later!) saying that “I am able to confirm that the development is being carried out in accordance with the approved drawings and that Condition 3 of the planning permission NP/06/076 (dated October 2006) may now be discharged.” In 2009 the National Park Officers reported that the levels were correct and that the base level is roughly the same as the original dwelling. Subsequent measurements found the Officers were wrong, yet again. We think the failure to correctly establish base levels from the outset was a very serious mistake. In Ifor Jones report there are admissions that the issue of levels was incorrectly handled, in particular he states that "there should have been absolute clarity over the ground level at which it would sit. Any shortcomings of the applicant in this respect should have been rectified during appraisal of the application."


Q: Why didn't the authority require the building to be built to plan?
A: A good question! Several people have told us that developers often build something that is larger than approved, knowing the Park fails to enforce permission at the time. They later apply for retrospective approval (as has happened in this case). The threat of an expensive appeal apparently results in many such retrospective applications being approved. Apparently, we are told, this way to "beat the system" is well known to developers. We believe that this has happened here, and the developer always intended to construct a different building. As evidence for this see the building regulation application here. These plans show the building as constructed (and very different from the approved building). Yet they were submitted in November 2006, just after the flawed 2006 planning approval was granted. The developer should therefore have immediately applied for planning approval for the changed plans, but chose not to do so - why not? The Planning Officers failed to spot that the Building Regulations application involved significantly changed plans. This is highly irregular, and yet another reason why this case is of National Importance.


Q: Why has this development been treated differently to others? Doesn't this set a dangerous precedent?
A: We believe that it has been treated differently, and that it sets a very dangerous precedent. This is one of the grounds we used in our appeal to the Welsh Assembly Government. It is curious why the National Park Officers have recommended in favour of this development where they have opposed other developments that were less intrusive and more in compliance with Planning Policies. We believe that the Officers have interpreted policy JUDP 56 incorrectly; again another ground for appeal.


Q: I'd like to see the plans, to make up my own mind.
A: You can see scans of the plans by going to the National Park Website here. Page down until you see the entry for the Development Management Committee and then click this to see minutes and agenda information. Within the agenda for 15th April are links to the Officers report which contains the plans. To help you can see it directly by clicking here.


Q: Is it not possible to force the developer to alter the building so that it complies with JUDP Policies?
A: Yes. We believe that the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA) does have the power under the Town and Country Planning Act to require that the new development is reduced in size to bring it into line with JUDP policies. A detailed document is available here analysing the history and the legal remedies. However, for the reasons above and given the fact permission has been given (incorrectly in our view) the Authority is in part responsible for the situation. Therefore compensation would be payable to the developer. We believe it would be better to address this now rather than end up spending taxpayers money fighting a possible judicial appeal, and then, if the appeal were to find against the development, to have to pay compensation in any case.

In summary, the PCNPA should do the following:

  1. Refuse the Developer’s current application for retrospective consent
  2. Issue a planning enforcement notice, which requires measures to at least reduce the height by 3.5m and remove the vast expanse of north facing glass
  3. Issue an Order under s.102 for further alterations, with especial regard to its scale, sizing, orientation and character so as to comply with all of the relevant policies of the JUDP
  4. Finally, if appropriate apportionment of compensation for costs incurred in complying with the same cannot be agreed, then submit the matter to determination by the Lands Tribunal.

Please note that we are continuing to add to this page as we uncover more evidence.

 

Minutes of the DMC (18th March 2006)

Present: Mr R Howells (Chairman), Councillor Mrs RR Hayes, Mrs F Lanc and Councillor Susan Perkins, Messrs JS Allen-Mirehouse, JA Brinsden, RR Evans, DJH George, SL Hancock, AC Luke, RE Owen, S Watkins and M Williams. (NPA Offices, Llanion Park, Pembroke Dock: 10.00a.m. - 12.15p.m.)

REFERENCE: 06/076
APPLICANT: Mr N Nicholas
PROPOSAL: Demolish existing dwelling & build new house
SITE LOCATION: Bettws Newydd, The Parrog, Newport

This site at the Parrog lay just outside the Conservation Area and currently contained a timber clad, chalet type property which did not reflect the local vernacular and which would require considerable improvement works to bring it up to modern day living accommodation standards. The design of the proposed replacement dwelling was modern, with extensive glazing to the northern elevation, and of a split level design to take advantage of the drop in levels, with a two storey element to the north and a single storey element to the south[1], the direction of the main public views.

Newport Town Council, while not objecting to the principle of an innovative design on this plot, had objected to the details of the design.[2] Officers had agreed that certain details needed further discussion, in particular the overall height of the structure[3], a roof balcony and details of the elevation facing the entrance, as it was felt that these aspects detracted from the overall concept and would be intrusive to the network of paths in the area. It was therefore recommended that the application be delegated to officers to discuss these aspects further. The Town Council had also pointed out the existence of a badger sett in close proximity and further advice was being sought on this issue also.

In addition, it was reported that a letter had been received since the report had been written, expressing concern about the woodland which should be retained and managed to provide a long-term woodland habitat.[4]

DECISION: That the application be delegated to the Chief Executive (National Park Officer) to issue consent on the receipt of satisfactory amended plans altering the detailed design and subject to the resolution of the issue relating to the badger sett.

Approval Report, 17th October 2006

This is called the "Approval Report" in this page, but the heading title is "Delegated Decision by Vicki Hirst". We have a scanned document, which can be seen by clicking here.

Minutes of the DMC (17th October 2007)

(under Enforcement and other Matters)

Present: Councillor JA Brinsden (Chairman) Councillor Mrs RR Hayes, Mrs F Lanc, Councillor Susan Perkins and Dr Ruth Williams, Messrs JS Allen-Mirehouse, D Ellis, RR Evans, SL Hancock, R Howells, AC Luke, T Giles and M Williams. (NPA Offices, Llanion Park, Pembroke Dock: 10.00a.m. – 12.15pm)

(d) NP/06/076 Replacement dwelling at Bettws Newydd, Newport

Members were reminded that in March 2006 an application for a replacement dwelling on a plot to the rear of The Parrog, Newport was considered. The replacement was modern, and considered by all parties to be an acceptable approach as it did not relate directly to adjoining traditional properties. The report before Members that day stated that the details of the design required further discussion in particular the overall height of the structure, the roof balcony and the detailing particularly of the elevation facing the road and the application was delegated to the Chief Executive (National Park Officer) to issue consent on the receipt of amended plans altering the detailed design and subject to an issue relating to the badgers sett. Following the submission of revised drawings, planning permission had been issued, but despite references to height in the report, this was not addressed specifically[5], although major improvements to the design were achieved.

The form of construction was that of a complete steel frame which would be clad, and the erection of this frame had caused concern in the community and the Town Council[6]. A number of letters had been received expressing concern that the height of the building would mean that the new dwelling would be more visually intrusive than the one it replaced. They were concerned that it might set a dangerous precedent and one of the objectors had asked that the consent be revoked.

Letters had been sent taking the view that it was far too early to judge the impact of the development, and that judgement should be reserved until the property was completed and ground works finished; and that within the wider landscape setting the scale and mass of the building was acceptable. The objectors had also been advised that revocation would mean that as the steel structure had been erected in accordance with the approved plan, that element of it could not now be revoked [7]. The Authority’s Solicitor had advised that it was possible to make a Discontinuance Order, which could require the removal or alteration of works already carried out, however officers did not consider that the structure was unacceptable in the wider landscape and therefore did not recommend that such an order be issued.

Officers did accept that lessons could be learned from this particular project: a firmer line should be taken with architects and agents to ensure that accurate levels were shown on submitted drawings, and officers needed to be particularly careful when assessing the accuracy of drawings, particularly with regard to levels[8].

Minutes of more recent DMC Meetings:

Minutes of the 21st April 2010 DMC (Bettws Newydd only) are here
Minutes of the 21st October 2009 DMC (Bettws Newydd only) are here
Minutes of the 17th June 2009 DMC (Bettws Newydd only) are here

Minutes of the 20th May 2009 DMC (Bettws Newydd only) are here
Minutes of the 15th April 2009 DMC (Bettws Newydd only) are here

Notes:

[1] Is this really just a two storey and single storey building? Look at the pictures. Most people would describe Bettws Newydd as a 3 storey building. It is the single largest building in that part of the Parrog.

[2] The minutes do not make it clear that Newport Town Council opposed the application (not just a few details). One reason was the excessive height and the Town Council Planning Group were later informed that the overall height had been reduced. This was not the case.

[3] The height was a particular requirement to be addressed, as the minutes make clear.

[4] This letter from a professionally qualified person, also pointed out that the height needed to be reduced but this was not reported to the Committee.

[5] The minutes of October 2007 in effect admit that the height issue had not been addressed but do not explain why not.

[6] The Officer’s report had actually implied that complainants were deceived by the appearance of the steel frame and that it was too early to judge the building.

[7] In fact it is now known that the case officer had not been correct in stating that “I am able to confirm that the development is being carried out in accordance with the approved drawings” (see above)

[8] The final paragraph of the second set of minutes seems to us to be an admission that levels were not correctly assessed, and no accurate levels were shown on drawings.

 

Bettws Newydd from the beach

 

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