The little Sully and Lavernock Community Council has won a significant planning appeal against the Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council – but is going to have to foot the bill for the legal costs involved .
The land which was the subject of the appeal, is adjacent to what was the former Hayes Road recycling facility – where residents of Penarth and Sully used to take household waste for disposal . [ That former facility is now occupied by the caravans and vehicles of gipsies and travellers to who occupied it illegally in 2012]
- Since 2008 the Sully and Lavernock Council had been in discussion with the Vale Council about the provision of much-needed allotments in the village – a village where no local council allotments exist . A parcel of land next to the then-operating Vale Council Hayes Road Recycling Facility was identified for potential use as allotments.
- In August 2011 the Vale Recycling Facility at Hayes Road was closed down and a new recycling facility was opened in Barry Docks
- In January 2012, the site of the Vale’s former waste recycling facility in Hayes Road was illegally occupied by gipsies and travellers who camped there in breach of planning control.
- In May 2012, in the local government elections, the Labour Party took control of the Vale Council after stitching up a coalition with the Independent Llantwit First Party.
- In 2014 the Labour Vale Council issued a new so-called draft “Local Deposit Plan” – setting out its long term development plans for the whole of the Vale – including Sully and Penarth. In this, both the illegal encampment at Hayes Road – and the potential allotment site next door to it – were identified and allocated by the Vale as a prospective official gipsy and traveller camp.
- This 2014 decision by the Labour Vale Council ignored a earlier LDP background paper produced by the former Conservative adminsitration in 2011 which had “questioned the suitability” of using the potential allotment site for such a purpose. (That background paper – produced in 2011 – had concluded that “from an open space perspective the Hayes Road site is not a suitable site for gypsy and travellers” (sic)
The barrister representing Sully Council said :-
“ Remarkably and without any justification or evidential basis, the [Vale] Council announced that the civic amenity site and appeal site at Hayes Road in Sully, offered the most realistic opportunity to provide for the identified gypsies and traveller need, which was entirely inconsistent with the assessment of site in both Background Papers. There was no rational explanation as to why the Vale of Glamorgan Council had concluded that the Hayes Road site was suitable for gypsies and travellers, given the extensive list of constraints outlined in the Background Reports.”
Sully and Lavernock Community Council Community lodged an objection to the Vale Council’s LDP proposal.
On March 22 2016 – in the formal LDP Examination , the Inspector ruled against the Vale of Glamorgan Council and “instructed the Council to remove the allocation [allowing the potential allotment site to be used as a gipsy camp] due to it being unsound and contrary to national planning policy.” The inspector said that “The land allocation at Hayes Road for gypsy and traveller provision will be deleted from Policy MG5 of the LDP and an alternative site to be identified in its place.”
The sequence of events was :-
- Sully Council had applied to the Vale Council planning department for “change of use” of the parcel of land it wanted to earmark for allotments .
- The Vale Council refused the planning applicaton.
- Sully Council appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against the refusal .
- The Vale Council was forced to remove the allocation if the land as a potential gipsy encampment from its LDP and withdrew the objections it had made to change of use of the land for allotments .
- Sully Council applied to recoup its legal costs from the Vale alleging “unreasonable behaviour” by the Vale Council.
- The costs hearing was delayed and prolonged when the Vale of Glamorgan Council introduced additional documents which had not been previously revealed to Sully Council.
However the Planning Inspector, Joanne Burston – hearing the case on behalf of the Welsh Governement – has now found that that “unreasonable behaviour resulting in unnecessary expense, as described in Circular 23/93, has not been demonstrated. A full or partial award of costs is therefore not justified.”
That means that although Sully Council has won – it will have to pick up the bill for legal costs.
A spokesman for the Vale of Glamorgan Council said of Sully Council ” “While their appeal was successful, something that was not surprising as the Council had withdrawn its sole reason for refusal, their claim for costs was not – and so has left the community council with a large and unnecessary legal bill, a bill that would have been avoided if they agreed to work with our planners.”
The Vale Council’s statement appears to give Sully Community Council a not-so-subtle warning not to try something like this again – by saying “If the community council’s aim is to best serve the residents of Sully then we hope they adopt a more considered approach in the future.”
The Labour-run Vale Council’s very public slap-down of the little community council is being seen by some as a shot-across-the-bows of Sully councillors and residents who are also opposing to the Vale’s plans to permit the building of hundreds of new homes in Sully.