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‘Land issues’ cost council £1.1m

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Disappointed with the cost to the council: Meryl Gravell

Disappointed with the cost to the council: Meryl Gravell

COUNCILLORS attending a  meeting of the Community Scrutiny Committee on Monday (Sept 14) were surprised to discover that Carmarthenshire County Council’s much-vaunted Cross Hands East development would in fact cost the council £1.1 m more than was anticipated. Cllr Ken Howell asked officers to explain the £1.1m overspend, described as ‘due to land issues’ in Appendix D of the Capital Budget Monitoring Scrutiny Report. In response, he was told that as a result of a Lands Tribunal, the council’s original valuation of the land, which was acquired under a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) had been successfully challenged. As a result, the council was forced to pay a higher rate. Apparently, at the time the valuation had been based on original land ownership. In response to a question from the Chair, Cllr Deryk Cundy, Councillors heard that there was no way in which the authority could recoup this money.

Commenting in local media, Executive Board Member for Regeneration Meryl Gravell said that it was ‘disappointing’ that the council should be forced to pay the extra costs. However, The Herald has learned that CCC was aware that a challenge was being launched as long ago as November 2013, when the matter was raised at a Community Scrutiny Committee meeting. The minutes for that meeting state: ‘Further information was requested in relation to the strategic employment site planned at Cross Hands East. The Head of Planning Services advised that the Compulsory Purchase Order had now been confirmed by the Welsh Minister however 2 land owners had still not agreed the valuation of their land and were appealing at the Land Tribunal. Statements of case had been exchanged and evidence would be given within the next 2 months.

This would not delay progress with the scheme.’ The Land Tribunal was concluded in November 2014, in favour of the claimants. The transcript of the tribunal reveals that CCC had originally rejected a Certificate for Appropriate Alternative Development (CAAD) for full residential development for the site, but had accepted that planning permission would have been granted for the development of business and industrial units (Use Classes B1 and B8) on the south-westerly part of the site. The reason for the decision was as follows: “Residential development of the entire site would be of a scale considered contrary to Policy CUDP 1 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan which allocates further development in Carmarthenshire to settlements in accordance to a sustainable strategic settlement framework.

While Cross Hands is allocated as a Growth Area adequate land has been allocated to meet the housing element of this role and the development of the entire site would lead to an over provision of housing to the detriment of the concept of a sustainable community. The site is however located adjacent to the existing industrial estate and the south westerly part would be an acceptable extension to the estate subject to conditions to protect the residential amenities of properties in the area.” The CAAD for the second plot of land certified that planning permission would have been granted for residential development (Class C3) only in respect of the frontage land to Black Lion Road to a depth of approximately 50m.

The reason for the decision was as follows: “The scale of the residential development proposed would be considered contrary to Policy CUDP 1 of the Carmarthenshire Unitary Development Plan which allocates future development in Carmarthenshire to settlements in accordance to a sustainable strategic settlement framework. While Cross Hands is allocated as a Growth Area adequate land has been allocated to meet the housing element of this role and the development of the entire site would lead to an over provision of housing to the detriment of the concept of a sustainable community.

The frontage of the site however aligns with the present pattern of development along Black Lion Road and the development of such an area is not regarded as undermining this key strategic policy of the Unitary Development Plan. “However, it was decided that residential planning should have been given to part of the first site, and that claims that the site was outside the Unitary Development Plan area were irrelevant given the scale of the industrial development proposed by the council. In response to Eifion Bowen’s claim regarding the Cross Hands East development falling in line with CCC policy of ‘permit[ting] small-scale employment undertakings outside the limits of all regional settlements throughout the plan area’ the adjudicator pointed out that: “On 29 November 2012 planning permission was granted for development of the site as an “Industrial Park, including the development of business and industrial units (Use Classes B1 and B8), offices, business incubator units, a hotel, a business central hub, resource centre, energy centre…”

In my judgment, such a development cannot realistically be described as comprising a small scale employment undertaking.” It was also determined that an increased area of the second plot should have been given residential planning under the CAAP, and that the number of houses now permitted – a total of 95, would not have interfered with the UDP. Adjudicating, NJ Rose stated that Mr Bowen had placed emphasis on the fact that the plots were outside the UDP area: “In my judgment CCC did not consider that boundary to be of material significance when considering proposals for development in the area”

Mr Rose said: “There are a number of reasons for this conclusion. Firstly, as I have said, PDB31 was allocated on the UDP for employment use, although it was outside the settlement boundary. Secondly, CCC did not rely on that boundary as a reason when they issued the certificates which are the subject of this appeal. Thirdly, CCC granted a positive certificate for an extension of the existing Cross Hands business park into the south-western section of the Bonnell land, which was itself outside the settlement boundary. Fourthly, there are other significant areas which were allocated for residential development beyond that boundary, namely PDB29 and PDB30. The former was identified in the UDP as being suitable for mixed use, and outline planning permission has been granted for 250 dwellings. PDB30 was identified as a development brief site to include relocation of a scrap yard with residential to the east.”

A statement released jointly by Ms Gravell and executive Member for Resources David Jenkins said: “The County Council is obliged to pay compensation for property it purchases under compulsory powers. The estimated level of compensation to acquire property to create the access road to the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has increased following a Lands Tribunal decision which has increased the value of the land bought for the road.” This summary, while admirably to-the-point, could be considered somewhat lacking in the finer detail.

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Have your say on the future of housing in Carmarthenshire

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RESIDENTS and businesses are being urged to have their say on the future of housing in Carmarthenshire.

Carmarthenshire County Council is developing a new 10-year Housing and Regeneration Masterplan and residents are being asked for their views.

Providing quality, affordable homes is a key priority for the council and it is investing millions of pounds in new housing stock; creating much-needed jobs and helping to grow the local economy and regenerate communities.

In 2015, the council became the first in Wales to suspend the Right to Buy to retain its declining housing stock, and built a number of bungalows – the first local authority housing to be built in Wales since the 1980s.

A year later, in 2016, it launched its affordable homes plan to deliver 1,000 additional affordable homes in the county by 2021 by building new, buying from the market and converting empty buildings.

Now the council is shaping its plans for the next 10 years which includes building over 900 new council homes and investing nearly £150million across the county by 2029.

It is important that the new homes are of the right type, size and tenure, and in the right places to build strong sustainable communities where people want to live and work.

The Housing and Regeneration Masterplan will also recognise the role of housing development and investment in stimulating the overall economic growth of the county – which is now even more critical as we recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Residents are being encouraged to take part in our online consultation which starts on Monday, June 14.

Cllr Linda Evans, Executive Board Member for Housing, said: “We are proud to be leading the way here in Carmarthenshire to deliver new, affordable, high quality and much-needed homes for local people.

“We have already achieved so much during the last few years, but we must now plan for the next 10 years and we need the views of our residents to help tell us where they think these homes should be developed, who should have them, and what type and size they should be.

“We are committed to making more homes available for those in highest need, and aim to deliver a plan that will provide homes in communities where people want to live, with a range of homes to suit specific needs.

“This includes our rural towns and villages, where we must help to make sure that local people are able to afford quality affordable homes and remain in their communities; as well as increasing the residential offer in our town centres, increasing footfall and helping businesses to thrive.

“Aside from providing much needed homes in the county, the investment will also boost the local economy creating jobs, training opportunities and apprenticeships in the construction industry.”

The council is delivering this commitment in a number of ways, including building more council homes and working with housing association partners to deliver more new build schemes, buying stock that suits our needs, working with developers to ensure a range of affordable homes are built as part of private developments and bringing empty homes back into use. 

It is also actively working with landlords to encourage them to make their properties available at affordable rent levels, including bringing more private sector homes into the management of our in-house social lettings agency.

To take part in the survey please visit the consultation pages on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations Paper copies are available from one of our customer service Hwbs. The survey closes on July 26.

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Community wardens hit the streets of Tyisha and Glanymor

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has appointed two new community wardens to patrol the Tyisha and Glanymor areas of Llanelli.

The community wardens will support the local Neighbourhood Policing Team and other agencies to provide a visible presence within the area and will have a varied role which will include:

  • Patrolling hot spot areas to deter crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Tackling vandalism and fly tipping as well as issues relating to communal areas and open spaces/parks
  • Supporting the introduction of a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme
  • Organising the installation of crime prevention measures
  • Offering targeted support to vulnerable members of the community
  • Encourage wellbeing activities and community engagement with youth projects, schools and clubs including the promotion of volunteering opportunities.

Linda Evans, chair of the Tyisha steering group and executive board member for housing said: “I am delighted that Tyisha and Glanymor now have community wardens who will work closely with Dyfed Powys Police and other agencies to deliver a multi-agency approach to tackling issues of community concern. In response to community feedback they will prioritise tackling anti-social behaviour issues, reducing crime relating to drug and alcohol misuse and engaging with the community to make positive changes throughout Tyisha and Glanymor.”

Ann Davies, Executive Board Member and vice-chair of the Tyisha Steering Group said: “The work carried out by the community wardens will make a positive difference through helping to reduce fear of crime and incidents of anti-social behaviour as well as improving quality of life for those who live in these communities.”

The introduction of community wardens to the Tyisha area forms part of the council’s ambitious Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.

To contact the community wardens or for more information on joining Tyisha and Glanymor’s Neighbourhood Watch Scheme please e-mail tyisha@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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Pollinators protected during annual grass verge cuts

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council highways crews are starting their annual roadside grass cutting operations this week, but not every verge will be fully cut.

As part of its duty to protect biodiversity, grass will only be cut in one metre swathes in most areas where growth is affecting road visibility and pedestrian safety and several verges will be left until later in the year allowing flowers to set seed before being cut.

Much of Carmarthenshire’s roadside growth of grass and wildflowers will be left untouched to support local wildlife and pollinating insects.

Cuts will only be taken in these areas if there are health and safety concerns, particularly in 30-40mph areas in towns and villages.

Cllr Hazel Evans, the council’s executive Board Member for Environment, said the authority has taken a careful view of grass cutting operations not just for the sake of biodiversity but also to keep costs down.

“We have to carefully balance the needs of local wildlife with our responsibility for highway safety,” she said. “The importance of the road verge network for nature conservation is reflected in our verge maintenance policy. We delay the cutting of some verges in the interests of conservation as long as highway safety for motorists, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians is not jeopardised.

“This is not only a reflection of our duty to the environment but also follows budget reviews which have identified cost savings by reducing and delaying grass cutting operations.”

Pollinating insects are essential for the maintenance of ecosystems through pollination of the wild plants which form the basis of most habitats. They also play an important role in the production of many crops.

The council works to conserve and enhance biodiversity and has a range of projects to support local species and habitats.

Managing areas for wildlife can provide opportunities for individuals, community groups and schools to get involved, benefiting wildlife and people.

Visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/biodiversity for further information and ideas for ways to support local conservation. 

For further information on highways operations, visit the website’s travel, roads and parking pages.

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