Flintshire community leaders write to First Minister over concerns village has become ‘soft target’ for developers
Community leaders in Flintshire have written to the First Minister of Wales over concerns their village has become a “soft target” for housing companies.
It comes after planning inspectors have allowed five developments to go ahead in Penyffordd in the last five years, despite the proposals initially being refused by Flintshire Council.
Penyffordd Community Council said there were approximately 1,340 houses in the community nine years ago, but now there are more than 2,000 with seven active construction sites.
Members have hit out at what they described as “undemocratic” decisions by the Planning Inspectorate, the most recent of which saw plans for 36 retirement apartments on Rhos Road granted on appeal.
They also questioned why the removal of an unpopular policy called TAN 1, which meant meant local authorities in Wales had to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, had not been taken into account.
In the letter, which has been sent to the inspectorate and First Minster Mark Drakeford, the community council’s clerk said any trust residents had in the planning system had been damaged.
Sarah Hughes said: “From a community perspective the series of events here require some explanation.
“The Minister changes a long standing widely reviled policy at the peak of a national crisis and an inspector makes a quick decision within weeks.
“Penyffordd, along with other communities close to the English border were soft targets for developers with disproportionate numbers of speculative applications.
“The change to the regulations should offer relief to our community and this (was the) first test of the interpretation, with Flintshire approvals and developments so high, two local planning authority refusals at planning committee and significant local objection.
“The failure of the inspector to fully explain his reasoning for not taking account of the change in the 5-year supply calculations and removal of TAN1 leaves a clear sense of local injustice.”
She added: “There is an unintended consequence of planning decisions such as this one. They undermine the trust of the public in the planning system.
“The need for housing in Wales is not being served by the undemocratic decisions being made. That is a fact.”
Ms Hughes said the community was not against the development of houses, but wanted to see them built based on need.
She highlighted how villagers had been actively involved in the planning process in Flintshire, including making contributions to the county’s local development plan and supporting a social housing application.
But she claimed their views had been ignored by inspectors and politicians.
She singled out Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Government, for refusing to meet with the community council.
Ms Hughes said: “We are not a community of NIMBYs. The actions of the inspectorate bear no resemblance to the rhetoric of your community engagement presentations, with councillors who attended considering them a total waste of their time.
“To be absolutely clear, there has been no occasion in this community where a planning inspector has ever considered any local development plan policies or local representations above housing need.
“We have repeatedly requested meetings with the present, and previous, Welsh minister responsible for planning to discuss this essential point and the impact of poor decisions outside the process.
“The minister refuses to meet with or engage with us, as community leaders, apparently because the minister believes it is a conflict of interest.”
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed it had received the letter and would “carefully consider” the community council’s comments before responding to them.
A spokesperson said: “As with all appeals inspectors encourage everyone with an interest to provide comments.
“When making a decision inspectors will consider all the evidence submitted at the time of the appeal and take account of current planning policies, guidance and legislation.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Once a decision has issued on an appeal, neither the Inspector nor the Welsh Ministers have any further jurisdiction in the matter and they are not therefore in a position to discuss the matter.
“It is not appropriate for the Minister to meet with interested parties as it could prejudice the Welsh Ministers’ position should further applications come before them for consideration at some future date.”
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