The views of an entire village, its community council and those of its neighbouring communities were swept-aside last night when the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee gave outline planning permission for a controversial new 350-dwelling housing estate on agricultural land at Cog Road, Sully.
It was the culmination of months of campaigning against the controversial scheme – which, because of the additional pressure it will put on local roads, medical facilities and schools, will affect Penarth every bit as badly as Sully itself.
Despite being against the wishes of hundreds of local residents, the 350-home development by Taylor Wimpey will now expand the village of Sully by no less that 37% – with a further 150 homes to be added at a later date . This is a scale of increase which – as was pointed out in the meeting – the Vale Council’s Labour administration would never contemplate inflicting on its political heartland of Barry.
The meeting also exposed the latest manouverings inside the Vale of Glamorgan Council itself with Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) now installed as the new Deputy Leader of the Council and holds the “Regeneration” and “Education” portfolios.
Councillors said she has been influential in appointing another Penarth councillor – Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) – into the five strong ‘cabinet’.
No fewer than 4 members of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s ruling Labour ‘cabinet’ are installed on the council’s Planning Committee including Cllr Neil Moore (Labour Leader Cadoc Ward Barry) , Cllr Bronwen Brooks, (Labour Court Ward Barry) Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines) and Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) .
All four were at last night’s meeting – even though councillors have pointed out that two of the ‘cabinet’ members are involved in planning matters in an executive capacity .
A council’s planning committee us supposed to be a “quasi judicial” rather than a policial committee – but last night all the Labour members voted together en bloc on every single motion – which is not the way planning committees are supposed to function . It was also notable that last night the council-controlled tv cameras avoided showing the Labour members voting in unison.
All the familiar arguments against the scheme were heard – the traffic congestion, the narrowness of the local roads, the dubious forecasts of housing need, the adjacent Grade II listed buildings, the yet-to-be-adopted Local Development Plan, the danger to pedestrians, the ecological effects on the local newt population and – by no means least the objections raised by the tenant farmer on whose rented land the houses will be built.
In the event none of these carried any weight with the Labour majority who forced the application through – despite a forest of hands being raised by opposing councillors calling for the decision to be deferred.
It also seemed, to some members of the public watching, as though the primary concern of the Vale Council’s planning officers was not so much the welfare of the residents of Sully – or Penarth – but the council’s housing land-supply commitments and its supposed legal obligations. Indeed even the impact on local Grade II listed buildings seemed to be a higher priority for the Vale planners than the impact on the residents of Sully .
There were powerful speeches from Cllr Ian Barlow chairman of Sully and Lavernock Community Council and his colleague Cllr Ken Jones who also leads the widely-supported “Saving Sully” campaign.
Cllr Ian Barlow said the increasing the size of the village Sully by 37% in “one fell swoop” was “clearly unacceptable“, He said it was “hard to believe that the planning officers are recommending approval of this application”. Cllr Barlow pointed out that application was “premature” because the Local Development Plan process had yet not been concluded.
Cllr Barlow said the visual impact of the development in open countryside would be “significant and clearly detrimental to existing residents“. He said the highway infrastructure was clearly unable to support the proposed development – much of the traffic from the estate would use Sully Road – a narrow winding and unclassified country road where vehicles constantly have to stop and reverse in order to pass each other .
Cllr Barlow pointed out there was no public transport of any kind serving the area – the result being that people living in the new estate would have to resort to using private vehicles. He also noted that council had legal obligation to preserve the Grade II Listed buildings in the vicinity and their settings.
Cllr Barlow said it was clear the Vale of Glamorgan Council had overestimated housing need. Sully Council, he said, had deemed the development in strictly strategic terms – unnecessary . The scale of the development was – he said – totally unsustainable, would be detrimental to existing residents and in the view of his council had “no merit”.
Cllr Ken Jones (Sully Council) who is the leader of the Saving Sully organisation – with heavy irony – “congratulated” the Labour-run Vale Council for turning down the similar 200 house development at Weycock Cross [in its Labour-voting Barry heartland] and removed that site from its Local Development Plan.
Cllr Jones argued that the same planning rationale which had been conveniently used to scrap the Weycock Cross scheme should also have been applied to the similar – but far larger – Cog Road scheme in Sully. However the Barry-based council had over-ridden the objections of over 300 Sully residents and had included a 500 house scheme for Sully in the final draft of the LDP.
Cllr Jones said the Cog Road Scheme would impact on the existing “Green Wedge” between Sully and Penarth and result in the loss of 72 acres of prime agricultural land. (Later, planning chief Marcus Goldsworthy asserted the site was not “Green Wedge”. He said its status had been changed at the recommendation of the Welsh [Labour] Government).
Vale Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) went straight for the jugular and targeted the most threadbare part of the Vale Labour administration’s creaking case – the dubious “Local Development Plan” and its status.
He said “We have just heard Marcus Goldsworthy [the Chief planner] make out that there is no LDP“ [ the Local Development Plan has not yet passed-muster with the Government inspector] ” so we don’t have to pay any attention to that”. Quoting the Vale’s use of the LDP turning down the Sully Allotments proposals, Cllr Mahoney said it seemed that “when it suits, we do have to take the LDP into account…It seems the planning department choose when they want to use the LDP and when they don’t – it’s outrageous”.
Cllr Mahoney said the Cog Road scheme represented a 37% increase in the size of the Sully settlement . He said there were no offices or factories in Sully. The council was “creating another dormer settlement which inevitably could only put more cars on the road”. He said the plans to mitigate traffic congestion at the Cog Road junction were “so laughable I would have thought the officers would have been ashamed at putting this into their report”.
Cllr Mahoney queried the planners “ludicrous” claim that the “500 house development would only result on 13 extra cars at peak rush hour”. He also raised the concerns of the tenant of Cog Farm [who that same morning had refused to admit Vale Councillors onto his land] . He would be losing 16% of his land – his income, his future and the viability of his farm was at stake.
Vale Cllr Bob Penrose (Independent Sully) pointed out the marked disparity (also highlighted in a letter from Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty) between two different traffic assessments – one prepared by Taylor Wimpey’s transport planner Neil Buckman and another traffic report compiled by Coren Associates. Coren had concluded the highways were inadequate .
Buckman replied that he couldn’t comment on the Coren report but that his Taylor Wimpey report [saying in effect that there were no major transport problems] had been compiled in association with the Vale Council’s own Highways Department. he said “The case we’ve put forward is a fair and strong case”.
Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Dinas Powys) said that Buckman’s contention (that people would “choose not to drive along Sully Road“) flew in the face of local knowledge and common sense.
Overwhelmingly in Sully people looked to Cardiff for employment – he said – and the shortest route was via Sully Road – a route used by the 250 employees in Ysgol Y Deri and the road was also the main access route for St Cyres School as well as serving the 70 new homes to be built near St Joseph’s School .
He said “I find it just inexplicable we can just shrug our shoulders and say everythng will be ok”
Marcus Goldsworthy Head of Regeneration & Planning said no reference had been made in the meeting to what he called “modal shift” [planning jargon for forcing local people to change their travel habits] .
He said there would be “contribution of £700,000 for sustainable transport” which could be used for provide “extra buses.”
Cllr Bob Penrose said he was speaking on behalf of a very large number of Sully residents. A total of 407 objections had been submitted to the Vale of Glamrogan Council’s planning officers . Politicians objecting to the scheme included he said Vaughan Gething, Andrew R T Davies, Stephen Doughty and Eluned Parrott . Dinas Powys Community Council, Sully and Lavernock Community Council and Penarth Town Council had all objected to the scheme.
Cllr Penrose posed this question “Just imagine increasing the size of Barry by 37% without increasing the existing infrastructure” – yet this was the scale of increase being imposed upon Sully.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward ) asked about the impact on Sully of construction traffic during building.
Marcus Goldsworthy said there would always be impact on residents when such developments took place but there was nothing the council could do about it other than enforcing conditions for construction traffic management
The committee first voted on the key motion by Cllr Bob Penrose to defer the application pending the Planning Inspector’s assessment of the Vale Council’s contentious Local Development Plan.
It was defeated by 10 votes to 9.
A second motion to approve the Vale planning officers recommendation to give outline planning permission to the Cog Road Taylor Wimpey development was then passed by 10 votes in favour 4 votes against with 5 abstentions.
Penarth Conservative Andrew R T Davies said today “Unfortunately, this decision is yet another example of why the planning system needs a complete overhaul in Wales so it can address and react to the genuine concerns of local residents. It cannot be right the communities of Sully and Cosmeston have faced a continued barrage of large housing applications in recent years but yet the local authority pays little to no heed.”
The Welsh Conservative leader had a special word of praise for the campaigning group “Saving Sully” . He said “The work of the Saving Sully action group speaking up on behalf of the community has been exemplary and whilst success has been recently achieved in relation to the proposed travellers site in the area, regrettably on this occasion the planning system which the council operates under has not been able to act on the deep-seated and legitimate concerns raised.”
He added “We all appreciate houses need to be built for the future but it should not be at the expense of the character of our local communities, nor should plans be pushed through without the necessary infrastructure developments in place which can address the increased demand on our education, transport and health systems.”