Labour councillors on Penarth Town Council’s planning committee acted last night to prevent any discussion of proposals by developers Taylor Wimpey to add an additional 150 homes to the hundreds of new houses already planned for Penarth’s neighbouring village of Sully.
The matter highlighted tensions between those Penarth Labour councillors who occupy salaried seats on the Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee and two of the Conservative members of Penarth Council.
The Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council’s controversial draft Local Development Plan is attempting to designate locations for 10,000 new homes across the Vale – hundreds of which will be in or around the village of Sully.
The plans in the LDP have already triggered protests in Sully and raised fears of massive commuter traffic jams through Penarth in years to come. The number of additional homes will – it’s feared – bring unacceptable pressures on local roads, schools and medical facilities.
Taylor Wimpey has now submitted a “pre-application” for a new residential development on “land west of Swanbridge Road, Sully” – and the item was duly included in the agenda for discussion at last night’s meeting of Penarth Council Planning Committee.
As soon as the scheme came up for consideration on the Penarth Town Council planning committee agenda last night, Cllr Rhiannon Birch ( Labour Cornerswell) (who is also a member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Planning Committee) immediately tabled a motion to effectively prevent any discussion of the matter.
At the outset, the chairman of the Penarth Council planning committee Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) – who is not a member of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee – introduced the item.
He said the committee had what he called “a pre-planning application notification” for a site in Sully. Cllr Thomas said “I realise that this is outside the settlement of Penarth. We’ve been asked whether we want to make comments. It’s up to us.”
Immediately Cllr Birch moved to suggest that Penarth Council should not comment on the scheme but should respond by saying “We would like other opportunities to comment on other applications” .
Before anyone else could get a word in edgewise, Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) – who like Cllr Birch is also a salaried member of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee – seconded Cllr Birch’s motion to prevent further discussion.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said “I take a slightly different view to our colleagues because this is a major development on the land west of Swanbridge Road. It will involve more than 300 new dwellings. The impact on Penarth, particularly on Lower Penarth , Redlands Road and the side roads will be considerable. ”
Cllr Ernest said that under the previous local development plan [ i.e. the LDP of the former Conservative administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council] the agricultural land involved would only have been a “reserve site” – only to be used when all other land had been used. He said this land had now “come forward” and what he called “the new administration of the Vale of Glamorgan Council have been minded to grant planning consent on it” .
Cllr Ernest said that most of the eventual residents this housing development would want to come to Penarth for their shopping whilst those who were working would be “heading in the general direction of Cardiff and therefore coming through Penarth either through Redlands Road or routes through the town” .
Cllr Ernest said “I don’t agree with my colleagues but I understand why they are trying to say there is no objection to this ; their administration has put this through planning”
This comment provoked outrage and furious protests from the Labour councillors. Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) intervened to say “That is imputing my motives. I do not want to comment on it because it’s outside our boundary and I don’t think it’s our right to do so. To suggest – as Cllr Ernest has – that I have other motives for not wishing to discuss it, is disgraceful.”
Cllr Roberts said Cllr Ernest was wrong to call the Labour administration a “new administration” . It had been “there for 4 years”.
Cllr Roberts also claimed that Cllr Ernest was also wrong about traffic coming through Penarth. He said that “the standard travel-to-work route from Sully is actually recognised as being via Port Road from Barry not through Penarth”. Cllr Roberts said “We’ve just had a motion that we shouldn’t discuss it. I seconded that and I now move”.
Cllr Ernest intervened to respond, but was halted by the chairman Cllr Neil Thomas. He told Cllr Ernest “You need to be speaking to that motion or against that motion …and not raising canards” .
Cllr Ernest said “The issue is that we have been asked if we wish to be consulted. I am saying we do. It is my understanding is that planning permission has been granted for this land ….”.
Cllr Thomas intervened from the chair to say this was not true either. “It is part of the LDP. They are making a pre application. The application has not actually been made for this site. This is a pre-application consultation”.
Cllr Ernest withdrew his comment but then went on to observe that ” I simply say there will be a major impact on Penarth… “. Cllr Ernest’s remarks was lost in the hubbub as Cllr Roberts and Labour members intervened yet again.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said “There are a couple of points here. This is outside our wards – but it will have an impact on our wards” . Cllr Williams said local people were worrying about traffic, about schools and their third concern was the local issue of Whitcliffe Drive . He wanted to “clear some of these up”.
Cllr Williams was interrupted by the chairman – Cllr Thomas – who told him that he could only speak on the motion, or to place a “variation on the motion” or an amendment – but that did not seem to be what Cllr Williams was doing.
Cllr Roberts chimed in again – alleging that Cllr Williams was “ignoring the motion”.
Cllr Williams said he would document his views in writing . He said “I would have liked to put my views here in the council . If I am not allowed to do that then I will write in separately – but it would have been nice for you to understand some of the implications of this Mr Chairman “.
Cllr Thomas said ” I do understand the implications of it”.
Cllr Williams claimed the site in question was “Welsh Office owned” land – worth more than “£30 million” ...but his remarks were again halted by the chairman, Cllr Thomas, who said the point was “irrelevant”. Cllr Williams said he would include it in his written comments.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell), who is also a member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning committee, asked for Cllr Birch’s motion (not to discuss the development) to be put to the table without further delay.
An unrecorded vote by show of hands was then taken:-
Voting against the motion were Cllr Anthony Ernest and Cllr Clive Williams.
Voting for the motion were Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines), Cllr Mark Wilson, Cllr Rhiannon Birch, Cllr Gwyn Roberts, Cllr Neil Thomas and Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward).
Cllr Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustine’s) and Cllr Tracey Alexander (Labour Cornerswell) abstained.
Today Cllr Turner said last night’s planning committee meeting – at which he had not spoken – had “not been a very good meeting ” .
Asked to confirm that he had voted with the controlling Labour Party on Cllr Birch’s motion and against his own Conservative Party colleagues, Cllr Turner said that he had “nothing to say”.