Monday 30th March 2009

The Site Visit by the members of the NPA’s Development Management Committee (DMC) took place this morning, shortly after 10:45 am. Unfortunately after such a marvelous sunny Sunday yesterday, this morning was very overcast, drizzly and dank. However, this was not allowed to dampen spirits or suppress the turn-out, which amounted to a very healthy 50 or so people.

Bettws Newydd from the beach

A total of 8 committee members attended, led by Cllr Brinsden, Chairman of the Committee, who facilitated the contributions by speakers, not however including Cllr Robin Evans, our local Pembs CC Councillor and Chairman of the County Council, who chose not to speak. Also present with the Committee were the Authority’s Principal Development Management Officer (Cathy Milner), their Principal Assistant DMO (Vicki Hirst), and their Solicitor, (Mr Prescott). Following the meeting on site the Committee and officers alone were to go on to view Bettws Newydd from various points and the opportunity was given to suggest others.

The Authority’s position was represented by Ms.Hirst, who re-iterated in essence the statement which had been read to members at the Committee meeting last week. In particular, she did not say whether or not Officers are currently recommending the present application for approval. She however did go through a list of relatively minor differences which exists between the building as erected, and the plans as approved in 2006. Whilst representing the concerns of objectors as regards the failure to comply with JUDP policies, in particular on visual intrusiveness, she did not however state whether or not officers considered this application conformed to the development plan.

The original house

The Developer’s case was represented by his Planning Agent, who spoke briefly about the fact that the building was, in his understanding, in fact shorter and lower in important respects than was allowed for on the approved plans. He made much of the asserted distance to neighbouring properties and how things would look better once the trees were back in leaf!

No one else spoke in favour of the application.

Newport Town Council was represented by Cllr Byron James (Chair of Planning) and Cllr Paul Harries (Chair of the Council) who both spoke briefly in opposition to the proposal. Cllr James drew attention to inconsistency of treatment by the NPA between this and another application. Cllr Harries in particular stated that the National Park had previously admitted to the Town Council that they could not tie the building into a zero datum level. They had stated to the Council that mistakes had been made and the Council still awaits an explanation of what these were.

Those who spoke in opposition to the development included the following:

Sandra Bayes: who quoted the advice of counsel to the National Park that “the application has to be judged against the development plan” Sandra emphasized the contravention of JUDP Policy 56 on visual intrusiveness of the replacement dwelling and illustrated her points with many photographs and comparative drawings. In addition, with respect to Policy 79, she emphasized the failure to preserve the setting of the Newport Parrog Buildings Conservation Area.

Imogen Morley: (for Newport Area Environment Group): who spoke to the lack of care taken with respect to the provisions of JUDP Policy 76 on sustainable and energy efficient design and the fact that the approved plans had shown the glass frontage as having a southern aspect rather than to the north as built.

Robbie Manson:  who spoke to the fact that all of the assertions, both by the Developer’s Agent and the NPA Officers, regarding the degree to which the building (as constructed) conformed or differed in minor respects to the heights set out in the approved plans were meaningless, since those plans in fact failed to state any figures whatever for the elevations above a set datum.

Hywel Williams (Bettws): who spoke principally to the dramatic adverse effect upon the drainage of the spring waters passing through and around the building site since the massive foundations were poured last year. The problem was shared by properties adjacent to his, and Hywel had been forced to install new drains to protect his own property from the risk of flooding.

Reg Atkinson asked ”Where is the single storey element of Bettws Newydd as described by officers when the application was brought to the Development Management Committee in 2006 and when the Committee delegated the decision to the Chief Executive to grant consent on receipt of satisfactory plans?” (Everyone clapped)   Reg went on to say that the building that now stands actually differs from that approved in significant ways.  For instance, the approved East elevation (labelled West) showed a single storey but this is now 3 storeys high at the NE corner and 3 1/2m
higher than approved. In addition, the building that now exists is different from the plans shown to the Committee and from the plans later stamped approved, in that the North elevation was labelled South and the South elevation was labelled North, the East elevation was labelled West and the West elevation East.   Actually, to comply with this aspect of the approved plans, the building needs lifting and turning through 180 degrees.

Sue Potts (Maes y Brenin): who spoke passionately to the failure of the NPA to respond to her early warnings as to how the Developer was not respecting the commitment to build at a lower level, and also to the extensive destruction of the natural wetland environment which had been wrought on the site.

Mr Warilow: who spoke about the need to respect and preserve the woodland areas surrounding the site and the need to return and restore the destroyed vegetation as matter of urgency.

Mrs Kenyon: who spoke to the massive visual intrusion to the sea views previously enjoyed by properties on Feidr Brenin and who then successfully invited members to come to see the view from her windows.

Caroline Maddox talked about people's worries about light pollution.

Finally, Mr Andrew Reicher: who spoke movingly about the extent to which this building if allowed to remain would be a terrible precedent and blot on a very well cherished landscape, recognized for its importance not merely locally and regionally but even nationally as well.

The only Committee member to ask a question was Ms Christine Gwyther (ex AM for S Pembs) who wanted an explanation from the Developer’s Agent as to why the approved plans were 180º out of aspect with the building as constructed. After the Agent made an unconvincing effort to flurry a copy of the plans, Ms Hirst stated that the orientation of the proposed development was clear from the site plan approved, although she had no answer when challenged as to why correctly labelled elevation drawings were not sought by the Authority before stamping them as approved!

The Chairman thanked everyone for their attendance and stated that the matter would be fully examined by the DMC at its forthcoming meeting in Llanion Park on 15th of April next.

PS The Chairman had been asked whether taking up the opportunity to speak at the site meeting prevented anyone speaking in April and we were assured not.

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