POLITICS PLANNING & QUESTIONABLE PLOTS? November 11-11-10.

The Council’s Unitary Development Plan must be the longest consultation exercise in Welsh Planning history with parcels of land across the county being fought over as to their suitability to be built on and in some cases, being finally determined by the WAG Planning Inspector if public objections were too numerous to ignore. Before Flintshire amalgamated with their district neighbours local plans existed for each area so when the Unitary Authority was formed, trying to determine which bits of separate plans were relevant must have been a planing officers nightmare. So simplicity was needed and in all decisions of what stays in and what is rejected; there will be winners & losers. One such loser, although he did not deserve to do so was Cllr Clive Carver, Hawarden Ward who has strongly resisted the development of Overlea Drive, probably the only remaining green space in that ward. The full Council accepted most of the development plans but several sites were still not acceptable to local members so it was agreed these plots should be reviewed by a panel made up of cllrs from the Coalition and Labour members. Binders bulging with all relevant documents including the ward cllr’s observations were handed out to the new panel members for the long & detailed read. Clive’s submission against the development was masterly and very well argued. In chronological order, he had laid out the many previous refusals to developing this site, the problems with access & he raised huge doubt over the sewage system being able to cope with the needs of yet more properties. His submission would not have been out of place if it had originated from top barristers’ chambers. The largest genuine political representation on the panel were the three Labour members. I was the only Tory & my Libdem Coalition members had no seeming desire to reject the Hawarden plan. Unfortunately, Clive had to present his case first. No criticism was made of the Chair but it was a learning curve for all participants and we both had to push hard for Clive to be allowed to address the panel. I was foolish. Naively, always wanting to play the straight bat & always trying to support officers’ recommendations, I thought that grudgingly, with conditions, that the plot should remain in the Unitary Plan. Big mistake when considering how other members were going to vote for other applications. Clive was naturally cross with me & we both realised that the political hue of the ward member who wanted their applications rejected, would come into play. Overlea was fully accepted as suitable for development but Ash Lane, further down the hill and on the same route of the dodgy sewage system being a Labour stronghold, (with my vote too I accept), was firmly rejected for development. The description of the land was awful. The site had mine shafts, surface coal mining work was still to be seen and the whole area was at risk of subsidence. Cllr Diskin had been involved recently in helping a woman who had fallen through loose ground on her driveway so this helped greatly as a reason to reject this site. I could not believe how this land could ever be considered suitable for building in the first place but amazingly, the officers felt sufficient improvements could enable development and it should remain in to plan be developed. Finally, all the recommendations either to accept or reject made by this panel came to full Council. Clive asked to have the dreaded Overlea Drive rejected. I rose to second his motion and complained that by going first, Clive had been the first guinea pig and although the chairman was not at fault, Clive had not been given a truly fair or easy ride. The applications that followed were dealt with much more sympathetically and members who wanted their sites thrown out somehow managed to vote with the Panel to reject their own ward applications. Humm!! Of course, there will always be politics in planning. I was immediately reminded by Labour cllrs that I had voted to go with the officer’s recommendation to keep the Overlea Drive site in the plan. True, I agreed but this showed a willingness not to play politics and to try and work with officers rather than vote to support ward members, who coincidentally just happened to be mostly members of Labour Opposition. At full Council, only the Tory group supported Clive’s proposal to reject the Overlea Drive site. Our brave Coalition members sat on their hands! ¬†Sadly, the Coalition at times is only a hollow sham. We are the majority Group and we could have voted the scheme out of the Unitary Plan.¬† Don’t blame Cllr Carver when the developers roll onto this site. He fought like a tiger & being resourceful has at least managed to turn negatives into positives, as stated: by winning condition that will offer protection from these powerful developers who will always win. They have the resources and the determination to wear the cash strapped Council down knowing that if we lose more appeals,we will pick up their costs.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.