Members of the Vale of Glamorgan Planning Committee were told tonight that they would not be allowed discuss the so-called “letters of support” in favour of building 200 new homes at the Sully Sports and Social Club in Sully – because it might prejudice a “police investigation” .
At the outset of the meeting the chairman of the Vale Planning Committee Cllr Fred Johnson left the chamber after declaring an interest, (Cllr Johnson is a director of the Sports Club). An interest was also declared by Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) who also left the chamber.
In an unprecedented move at the beginning of the meeting, the vice chairman of the committee Cllr Margaret Wilkinson read out a prepared – but garbled – warning to councillors warning them not to mention the “letters of support” – [20% which are probably bogus according to an internal Vale Council planning report]
Cllr Wilkinson said “We have to be very careful here this evening . Having carefully received the report which is on today’s agenda the Monitoring Officer is satisfied that there is enough evidence to continue with the planning application .”
She went on to say “Planning committee to take the view on the weight on the letters that’s been sent in. [sic] We have enough planning information here to carry on with this planning application .”
“After concerns regarding the paragraph on pages 53 and 54 of the report, it has been referred by the council to the police. No discussion will be permitted in relation to this aspect as this could pro-genst us [sic] in any appeal or anything like that. We could jeopardise – so we are not discussing anything that the police will come back on us. [sic] This is an application for the planning – so we have to discuss the planning application and that’s it. So I will now move on to the planning application… .”
Some councillors appeared to have been mystified by Cllr Wilkinson’s mangled statement.
Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Cymru Dinas Powys) said ” On a point of order. I’m, not disputing what you say but could I have legal advice why we can’t discuss that because the matter is not subjudice . It is not before the courts. No one has been charged. No one has been arrested. The police suggest apparently looking at the matter – and in the interests of transparency I’d like to know why we can’t discuss it and on what legal grounds.”
A council officer said “We’ve looked at the point and the point is we’re not going to be discussing anything to do with that because it is now part of a police investigation. Any discussion may prejudice a police investigation”
Cllr Franks was not satisfied . He said “With respect it’s not subjudice is it? It is not before the courts. And I don’t see how, if we were minded to discuss it, why it would prejudice an investigation” Cllr Franks said “I’m not really clear why we are being told we can’t say anything. “
After a pause the council officer replied – “The point’s been looked at by the Monitoring Officer [ the person who enforces standards of conduct in the council] that any discussion may potentially prejudice any investigation taken by the police and the situation is that we will not be accepting any discussion around the letters of support”
The details of the planning application were then read out by planning chief Marcus Goldsworthy who said the scheme involved demolishing the existing Sully Sports Club buildings, building a new club house, 3 grass pitches, 1 all-weather pitch,floodlights, a new bowling green and pavilion , a local “gym building” , a touring-caravan site and associated buildings, car-parking and associated engineering , and up to 200 dwellings with associated access playspace and landscaping . He said the residential element covered 6.7 hectares with 5.97 hectares of development land .
The planning officer’s recommendation to the Planning Committee was – on a number of grounds – that the committee should reject the scheme.
Speaking against the proposal were Sully and Lavernock Community Councillors Ian Barlow and Ken Jones who is also a member of the Saving Sully group and Vale Councillor Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) – who said he would have raised the matter of the “letters of support” had he been allowed to.
However speaking for the proposal was Jo Davies Senior Director of Planning Consultancy GVA – speaking on behalf of the developers St Modwen. Ms Davies wasted no time and fearlessly launched straight into the forbidden subject of the “letters of support”,
She said “ Firstly, in relation to the [Vale] officers report regarding the support letters potentially not being genuine, I would like to state that St Modwen does not condone any misrepresentation of public opinion….”
Ms Davies was halted in her tracks by the Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee Cllr Wilkinson – who told her that she should not mention the letters of support . Undaunted Ms Davies then went on to ask councillors to consider the application on its “material merits” . She was supported by Mike Stafford, the president Sully Sports Club.
Cllr Lis Burnett ( Labour St Augustines) was then invited to speak. She is Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Vale ‘cabinet ‘ member for regeneration – heavily involved in the Vale Council’s contentious and unpopular Local Development Plan which is pushing to get sites approved for the 10,000 new homes which the council claims are needed in the Vale.
With the Vale Council’s own planning officers having written a report recommending the planning committee reject this particular Sully scheme, Cllr Burnett had little choice but to say “Our officers have given a full appraisal of the application in relation to planning policy …so actually, I’d move officer recommendation” . Cllr Burnett’s motion was immediately seconded.
Vale Cllr Bob Penrose (Independent Sully) said in other circumstances he would have been coming out with “quite a speech on the reasons why the applications should not go ahead” – but he was gratified Cllr Burnett had put forward a motion to reject the scheme.
The overwhelming vote was against the Sully Sports and Leisure Scheme which will not go ahead – but may now be subject to a planning appeal.