An architectural impression of the scheme as view from the North - or the Cardiff Bay Barrage

An architectural impression of the scheme as viewed from the North – or the Cardiff Bay Barrage

The controversial proposal to build 30 luxury apartments in three blocks on the steep escarpment of Penarth Headland – directly overlooking Cardiff Bay –   has been unanimously rejected by the Vale of Glamorgan planning committee – in defiance of its own council planning officers.

Last night’s committee meeting saw the Vale council planning officers, who had recommended approval of the contentious development, being accused by Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) of “group-think”  before their recommendation was comprehensively overturned and  trashed by a unanimous vote by the elected members.

It was a bad night for the Vale Couoncil's planning and regeneration boss Marcus Goldsworthy and councillors shredded his reoport recommending the Northcliffe Lodge application be approved

It was a bad night for the Vale Council’s planning and regeneration boss Marcus Goldsworthy as councillors shredded his report recommending the Northcliffe Lodge application be approved

Vale Planning Committee members who for years have tip-toed around their staff planning officers and meekly accepted their recommendations almost without question last night put the staff officers firmly in their place and voted solidly against the recommendation of their own “professional” planners.

This watercolour impression of the development makes it look a lot greener than it would actually look in reality when viewed from Cardiff, Cardiff Bay or the Cardiff Barrage . The development would comprise 30 apartments in three blocks built at different heights - swamping the Headland with structures in place of natural tree-cover

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) alleged that  the pastel drawings of the development supplied by the developer were misleading . The development would comprise 30 apartments in three blocks built at different heights – towering above the Custom House and swamping the Headland with boxy structures in place of natural tree-cover

Planning Committee chairman Cllr Fred Johnson

Planning Committee chairman Cllr Fred Johnson

The planning committee meeting last night in the council chamber of the Vale Council had opened in some  disarray when chairman Cllr Fred Johnson – forgot there were members of the public who had registered to speak.

Cllr Johnson had to halt Cllr  Roberts in full-flow so that the members of the public could address the committee first.

First to address the committee was environmental campaigner Anne Greagsby (Plaid Cymru candidate for St Augustine’s in next May’s elections) who said she wanted to talk about the detrimental impact of the development. It would, she said “damage the setting and local character of the Custom House and the view from the barrage, part of the coastal walk”.

Environmental campaigner Anne Gregsby - who's standign in May as a Plaid council candidate - spoke out against the Northcliff Lodge Scheme

Environmental campaigner Anne Greagsby – who’s standing in May as a Plaid council candidate – spoke out against the Northcliff Lodge Scheme

If the development went ahead. she said, the aspect of Penarth  across the Barrage would be not the Grade2-listed Custom House framed by trees but “a series of modernist boxes totally out of keeping with Victorian Penarth.

Ms Greagsby said ” The green corridor along the cliff top would be trashed.” On wildlife she said “There may not be protected species in numbers here, but the rich bio-diversity on this piece of land will be lost forever. There are foxes, squirrels, birds, bats, plants and who knows what else – another habitat gone.”

Ms Greagsby also noted that only 30 car parking spaces were being envisaged for the 30 apartments – whereas the adjacent – and recently-built Mariners’ Heights development  had been required to provide a ratio of one car-space per bedroom. That should have meant a parking provision  of 65 spaces.The Vale planning officers’s report referring to an ‘excellent bus service’ was  quite wrong . Ms Greagsby also noted the  “High risk of landslide” onto the Custom House and said “The cliff may in danger of slipping if this goes ahead”. The application was – she said -” a lose/lose  for the people of Penarth.”

There was applause in the public gallery as she concluded her remarks – albeit over the time-limit. Chairman Cllr Fred Johnson then forgot to invite questions of clarification – but  a question from Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Cymru Dinas Powys)  on the impact of the development was ruled “out of order”. Cllr Franks reworked his question and a reluctant Cllr Johnson allowed it – giving Ms Greagsby a chance to expand on her earlier remarks.

Sam Courtney represented the developers

Sam Courtney represented the developers

Speaking on behalf of the applicant (Celtic Development Penarth Ltd) was Sam Courtney who said many of the trees to be removed were of “poor condition” and were “recommended for removal” ( he didn’t say who by) .  He said “mitigatory tree planting” would be carried out to the satisfaction of the local authority and that the “sustainable” development would represent what he described as “an efficient re-use of land” .

Cllr Nick Hodges (Plaid Cymru)

Cllr Nick Hodges (Plaid Cymru)

Cllr Nick Hodges (Plaid Cymru)  asked  Mr Courtney about a slope stability “desktop study” which indicated the site was at high risk of subsidence. If major landslide problems arose whilst the development was under way  – what would happen then?

Mr Courtney hesitated and then said that after the initial Terra Firma report there had been further “borehole testing” but a full site investigation had not been completed because of the existence of the trees and the difficulties of getting a drilling rig onto the site. Further work could not be undertaken until North Cliff Lodge itself had been demolished.

Cllr Hodges then asked him – that as the structure would be supported on concrete piling driven into the escarpment – how deep down would they go?  Mr Courtney said they would sink to a depth of 7 metres [23 feet].

Cllr Gwyn Roberts questioned the developers representative Sam Courtney

Cllr Gwyn Roberts questioned the developers representative Sam Courtney

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) asked Mr Courtney if he was aware of  the technical advice for coastal developments which states that where there are eroding cliffs or potentially unstable slopes  – a detailed site investigation and a risk assessment has to be carried out  prior to lodging a planning application? Cllr Roberts said the application appeared to be premature.

Mr Courtney didn’t agree. The firm’s consultants Terra Firma were “highly confident ”  they had a “design solution for the scheme” . They would have “further understanding of the site” once Northcliff Lodge was demolished.

Cllr John Drysdale (Labour)

Cllr John Drysdale (Labour)

Cllr John Drysdale said the design was “stark and boxy”  – why did the developers think this design would be complementary to the buildings surrounding it – particularly the Custom House?

Mr Courtney said the approach had been not to attempt a pastiche of the existing Victorian architecture but to take a fresh approach with a contemporary design.

Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Dinas Powys)

Cllr Chris Franks (Plaid Dinas Powys)

Cllr Franks told Mr Courtney said he was struggling to understand how the developers could consider that the development would improve the view of Penarth Head from the Barrage.

Speaking as a resident of Penarth, Mr Courtney said it was a contemporary design “which will stand out from the historic building. I don’t think it’s going to detract from the building – it will complement it”.

Cllr Andrew Parker (Conservative Cowbridge) said he had looked at the site from the Barrage and tried to work out the roof height of the old building relative to the highest point of the proposed new development . However  Mr Courtney didn’t have a full set of plans with him and could not help Cllr Parker on that point.

Planning chief Marcus Goldsworthy attempted to defend his report - but the tide of opinion was against him

Planning chief Marcus Goldsworthy attempted to defend his report – but the tide of opinion had turned against him

Vale planning boss Marcus Goldsworthy wasn’t able to help either – he said he would have liked advance notice of the question – but brushed aside the other issues .

On car parking  Goldsworthy said “highways colleagues”  had deemed the [unusually low]  parking space provision [of one car per household] as “acceptable and adequate” [a view which did not appear to be shared by the public or by councillors] .

On ecology Goldsworthy – despite having heard a list of objections minutes earlier from Ms Greagsby   – asserted that “there are no objections to the scheme” .

On the loss of trees Goldsworthy said  a number of the trees which currently had Tree Preservation Orders on them “are of a standard which would have to be felled because they are not of a quality that would need to be retained” . He and his officers were sure that the developer’s landscaping proposals would “mitigate the loss of those trees “.

On the Conservation Area and Listed Buildings beneath– the council’s Conservation Officer had looked at the issue in some detail and said “the view was that the development would not affected the listed buildings not the conservation area”.

On Section 106 [ the sum developers pay local councils to mitigate the effects of developments]  Goldsworthy told members that the Northcliff Lodge developer would not be paying the amount of Section 106 funding normally to be expected from a development of this type.  He said that this was  “due to the difficulty of developing the site ” the profit to be made by the developer would not be enough to meet the full terms of the council’s Section 106 agreements – meaning no money for education and just a £270,000 for “off-site”  affordable housing and £29,000 for “community facilities” – all of which had been properly agreed with the District Valuer. [ Other councillors would later point out out this bargain-basement deal meant in effect the council would actually be subsidising the development to the tune of around £500,000.]

On ground stability Goldsworthy said the Vale Council’s own engineers had looked at the “desktop survey and risk assessment” and at additional work . The Vale engineers had said they were “satisfied” with the [incomplete] site survey. Goldsworthy told the committee that foundations were a matter for building regulations and were not a matter for the planning committee to consider.

However Mr Goldsworthy had yet to hear from Cllr Gwyn Roberts, who now ripped into the Vale Council’s planning officers’ report recommending acceptance of the scheme . Cllr Roberts said he had been shocked”  to see that the Vale Officers had recommended approval of the planning application .

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) invoked the name of Michael Gove as he criticised planning "group-think"

Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) invoked the name of Tory politician Michael Gove as he criticised planning “group-think” and moved the motion that killed off the application

Invoking an unlikely ally in the form of Tory politician Michael Gove, Cllr Gwyn Roberts said he had noted in the press that ex-cabinet minister Gove had featured again in the press recently – expressing caution about experts in the context of Brexit. Gove, he said, was not decrying their skill, honesty or expertise but he was registering his concern about “group-think – where all the experts start in the same place and lose the broad perspective, which far less well-informed or able people can still see . It was – he said – a bit like the “Emporer’s New Clothes”.

Cllr Roberts said he – as a layman with the interests of his community at heart –  had looked at the Vale Planners report and had been shocked at its conclusion – recommending approval of the Northcliff Lodge scheme.

He said the report proposed the “desecration  of a historic, iconic landscape”  . On reading the Vale Officers report he saw that “one of the very few genuinely historical buildings [ the French Renaissance-style Marine Buildings next to the Custom House] “on our part of the coast  would be effectively destroyed” – because no one would want to preserve and develop it if the new Northcliff Lodge apartment-blocks were allowed to dominate the landscape.  Granting the planning application would – he said – be tantamount to “signing the death warrant ” of the Marine Buildings which had been protected and sealed for future development

Perhaps this, he said “ is the kind of broader perspective that Michael Gove had been referring to”.

The Vale Officers report had said “There isn’t a single reason to refuse this” . Cllr Roberts said he did not agree.”At what point” asked Cllr Roberts, “does the multiplicity of conditions become the bleeding obvious?. This is not a suitable development. From a holistic point of view this kind of development is simply wrong ”

He said “I recommend that we do not accept the officers recommendation but refuse the application ” . His motion was promptly seconded by Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative {Plymouth Ward)

Vale Council 'cabinet' member Clrl Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) - who friends say planned to vote in favour of the application covers his eyes as Cllr Gwyn Roberts continues his devastating attack on the proposals

Vale Council ‘cabinet’ member Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) – who friends say had planned to vote in favour of the application – covers his eyes as Cllr Gwyn Roberts continues his devastating attack on the proposals

There was a spontaneous burst of applause as Cllr Roberts concluded his remarks – during part of which his Labour colleague – ‘cabinet’ member Cllr Peter King (Labour Cornerswell) was  sitting alongside him with his head in his hands, covering his eyes. Colleagues said King had planned to vote in favour of the development.

Marcus Goldsworthy – for whom it was, by this time, obvious that the application he had supported was to be rejected – then suggested there should be an adjournment  so that the detailed reasons for rejecting the application were formulated in private and not in public. Goldsworthy said he would not he be happy in drafting such a rationale in “open committee.”

Still fighting a rearguard action, Goldsworthy said that the land in question was not on the coast but was “within the Marina” and that the Vale’s own engineers “had enough information for a decision to be made”. He also defended the terms of the discounted Section 106 provisional “deal”  and said that the artistic impressions of the North Cliff Lodge development  provided by the developers – which Cllr Roberts had described as “misleading”  were accurate. Unfortunately his computer terminal froze and he had difficulty retrieving a conclusive image  . Cllr Roberts said he had never suggested Section 106 as a reason for rejecting the application.

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) seconded Cllr Roberts's ,otion which killed the application stone dead.

Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) seconded Cllr Roberts’s ,otion which killed the application stone dead.

Cllr Clive Williams drawing on his experience as a ward councillor from the days when Plymouth Ward and St Augustines Ward were combined said   “This [the Northcliff Lodge site] is one of the finest sites that I have seen in the 34 years I’ve been a councillor .” He reminded members that the Custom House had been left derelict for  20-30 years  but luckily the council had had the sense to do something about it . It was now an iconic building and had now been open and trading for 22 years.  The business was now one of the largest  employers in the area.   The Barrage had put Wales on the international map, Cardiff was the fastest-growing city in the Europe . Cllr Williams said the Vale Council had resisted lots of potential schemes for the Custom House area and he did not think that the Northcliff Lodge planning application was worthy of that site and it would not add to the reputation that Penarth has of being one of the best laces to live n the UK .

There was another burst of applause from the public gallery.

Cllr Jonathan Bird (Conservative)

Cllr Jonathan Bird (Conservative)

Cllr Jonathan Bird (Conservative Wenvoe)  returned to the issue of the “discounted” Section 106 “agreement” [provisionally reached with the developers by the Vale Planners and in cahoots with the District Valuer ] . He said “If this is such an un-viable scheme, why do they so desperately want to get planning permission on it – if they’re only going to make a few thousand pounds?”.

Cllr Bird said that if the scheme went ahead  “These are going to be some of them most expensive flats in Wales. They’ve got the premier view and I’m sure another £10,000 on the price would not make a halfpenny worth of difference to the selling price.  The council – he said – was being hoodwinked by the developer’s “viability” projections.  For them to get away with half a million pounds knock-back – we’re mugs if we accept that”. As for the design, Cllr Bird said it looked like a block of 1960s maisonettes . He thought that it would be “very detrimental to the classic buildings you can see from the Barrage ” Cllr Bird added – “it is not acceptable to put this in the best site in the Vale of Glamorgan” “We’re being hoodwinked” he said.

Cllr Jeffrey James (Conservative Rhoose)

Cllr Jeffrey James (Conservative Rhoose)

Cllr Jeffrey James (Conservative Rhoose) said “This is an incredibly important site . It’s an escarpment immediately above listed buildings and therefore the context of the listed buildings is paramount. ” The development would neither preserve nor enhance the conservation area or the listed buildings – he said.

Cllr Hodges said Section 106 was there to mitigate something that wasn’t there before – and now we’re being told it has to be reduced to improve the viability because the site is difficult.

Cllr Hodges said “If the site is difficult – don’t go there!  Go somewhere else. If you want to build there the risk is with you – and don’t short-change us. “This scheme”, he said – choosing his words carefully – “is not architecturally kind” .

Cllr Chris Franks   queried the proposal to go into secret session to formulate the council reasons for refusal of the application . I’m not really sure how that will look to the rest of the world – he said.

Cllr Fred Johnson – in the chair –  said it was “Welsh Government buildings that had to be followed” . Marcus Goldsworthy re-iterated the need to go into private session was so that nothing was said that might affect the outcome of a subsequent appeal .

It was then decided that members were minded to refuse the application, but that Cllr Roberts’s motion would be retracted whilst the reasons for rejection of the application were discussed in adjournment.

A techical list of reasons for rejecting the application was then voted on unanimously by the members ensuring that the officers’ recommendation was rejected and the development will not now go ahead.

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  1. Lorna Cordell Smith says:

    Cllr Roberts and colleagues deserve huge applause for fighting to save Penarth Headland from such desecration. If Penarth is the garden by the sea, this is exactly the sort of development that should not be permitted. Take a look at the early photograph at the Scott Memorial and imagine the impact!!! I have great admiration for our councillors’ actions, well done for representing local feeling.

  2. Paul says:

    The firm’s consultants Terra Firma are clearly on “shaky ground”, on this one: Money, power and fame, don’t always get its own way. This white elephant, this pie in the sky dream, is the stuff based on nightmares. For anything to go wrong, even during construction, would spell a unmitigated disaster and without a proper ground survey, throughly carried out, there is no guarantee that it wont. Let the will of the people decide, not dictated to, by power hungry, wishy washy, councilors, who seem to be in the developers pockets.

    • Lindsay says:

      Errr…..unless I’m mistaken, it was the “power hungry, wishy washy” councillors who refused the application, a decision which appears to reflect the “will of the people”.

      • Phil says:

        Was the multiplicity of well-informed questions and pertinent issues raised by the councillors with regard to this ill-advised – and rather intriguingly promoted scheme – not enough for you, Lindsay? And is ‘the will of the people’ now a pejorative term, simply because the councillors did an excellent job? Have you just revealed something of your allegiances there, I wonder?

      • Lindsay says:

        Not at all Phil. A decision reached unanimously by councillors across the political spectrum. A good example of constructive cooperative decision making. Quite the opposite of their being “in the developers pockets” as Paul asserted in his rather tasteless comment.

      • paul says:

        Of course Lindsay, I was referring to the ones who were trying to push it through, cos they got the developers on their backs..

      • Peter Church says:

        I am glad someone has sussed out ‘Lyndsay’ as either friend of Labour Councillor or maybe even is one 🙂

      • Chris David says:

        Lindsay the sheep Mr Church complete with white fleece and white feather.

  3. Max Wallis says:

    Yes, huge applause to Cllrs Roberts and Clive Williams for fighting for Penarth. And to PDN for an excellent summary with pithy phrases like “councillors shredded the report” of Vale Council’s planning and regeneration boss Marcus Goldsworthy.

  4. Ann Other says:

    …. foxes, squirrels, birds, bats, plants ….. human beings?

  5. bizzilizzi says:

    Are” the Vale Council’s own engineers” the same ones that recommended the building of the viewing platform on Penarth Head which is just round the corner from the proposed development. For those who are not aware of the problems of our new viewing platform now roped off, please read recent reports in Penarth News.

  6. Richard says:

    I see Marcus Goldsworthy has one eye on an appeal already.

    • Guido says:

      Of course, as a now retired planner for the Vale, on numerous occasions we had to defend Councillors refusals of planning permission (when overturning an officer’s recommendation) based on spur of the moment made up reasons for refusal, which often then failed to stand the test on appeal.

  7. Tom says:

    Congratulations and thank you to all the councillors.
    I wish I’d witnessed the likes of Councillor Roberts speaking with such mastery and muscle.
    It’s not the right place to build – even I see that – and I’m taken aback that those such as Marcus Goldsworthy allowed it to get this far.

  8. Martha says:

    I’m beyond impressed by the councillors’ work. Bravo.

  9. Tom says:

    Normally I’m not a fan of Anne Greagsby but i have to admit she spoke with great passion and she’s right it would destroy the look of Penarth, or how she put it “trashed”, you can’t take the ely out of the girl.. Well done Anne Greagsby thank you for saving Penarth, even though you don’t “officially” live here…

  10. Dave says:

    If the pastel picture is the only basis by which the architects visualized the build, it clearly is trying to pull the wool over everyones eyes. Most designs of this nature require multiple views and plans and these would surely then highlight the stupidity of this scheme.

  11. Big Davey says:

    Wow, good on the councillors.

    Some cogent and articulate arguments put forward by all colours of councillors here.

    The big question is what the hell is Goldsworthy up to. He is clearly bending the rules to favour this developer.

    Great detail from PDN thanks.

    • Big Davey says:

      One other thing. What is wrong with keeping the house and site as it is?

      it is an unusual Swiss Cottage influenced building commissioned by significant shipping magnates of the industrial boom that Cardiff and Penarth once enjoyed.

      Perhaps the lodge and its environs should be listed to protect it for future generations to enjoy.

      So much of Penarth’s heritage has already been demolished to the profit of developers.

  12. Ford Prefect says:

    I’m not sure what everyone is talking about with regard to the ‘Iconic View’. St Augustine’s end of Penarth is a mismatch of different styles, eras etc. There is Victorian terracing (much of which has been modified with huge out-of-keeping windows on Paget Road, Brilliant White boxes on Penarth Heights, 80s flats at Mariners heights, ugly modern brick things just above the Custom House, and, most significantly, Northcliffe Flats, which are to most people’s eye’s 60s concrete monstrosities. The Custom House itself is falling down and the current owners are showing no signs of starting on the promised hotel. It’s hardly Lacock village now is it?

    A modern build on this site will merely follow the trend of everything that has been built here previously. I can’t see this decision being upheld in a court. The councillors have rejected it on nothing more than a whim, probably because they were scared of another Penarth protest group!

  13. Jackie says:

    Whilst I agree with the rejection, the same councillors refused planning for the hotel,in the front due to a glass lift at the side if the building. Surely it woukd be better to renovate than leave a building to the elements as it is now! How short sighted. Also bear in mind all these !Councillors are due an election in May so watch for more iinteresting U turns. councillor Roberts approved the view platform!!!

  14. Chris David says:

    Well done councillors and Ms Greagsby et al, could this be a turning of the tide? Will we see common sense prevailing now in other areas? There is something(s) not quite right here. A £500,000 subsidy by the tax payer! A development that could destabilise the whole area! That’s just for starters. It must be time to audit the vale planning department. If Mr Goldsworthy wants secrecy there’s something to hide or pressures to be brought.

    • Lindsay says:

      Do you not accept the simple explanation that it was important to say nothing that would compromise any future appeal?

  15. Chris David says:

    Ah the cowardly “expert” Lindsay continues with his amateurish and nonsensical diatribe. Listen, have the guts to put up or shut up. In fact PDN, you should ask the shallow yellow streakers to post under their own names or ignore them. A witty or in this case witless handle is one thing but identities should be clear.

  16. Huw Williams says:

    I have taken the time to read the officers’ report. I found it well reasoned and carefully considered and certainly not meriting the strictures heaped upon it. This is a scheme designed by an award winning Penarth-based architect ( and I thought the report rightly highlighted the guidance on the role that contemporary architecture can play in local character. As the report also states, the ground conditions and structural design are not matters for the planning system to determine. If the Cardiff City region is to prosper as a location for financial and professional services and as an academic, R&D and advanced manufacturing centre then imaginatively designed, high quality, signature residential developments such as this are essential and complement the vision for Cardiff Bay that has been so successfully realised over the last thirty years.

    • Dave says:

      Totally agree Huw, but wander around the bay and there’s land a plenty to develop !
      In response to the other views here that the panorama of the head is a mix of styles, some are good some not so, all evolved over time. In years to come a lot of these contemporary boxes will if they are still there will not add to the vista in the way some say !

  17. Chris David says:

    Mr Williams I respect you’ve taken the trouble to read the officers report but the issues are much wider that those you comment on. As for ground conditions and structural design- these should be matters the planning system considers (viewing points stressing the cliff top!). It appears the ground stability reports were unsatisfactory. Is it not possible the development could have destabilised the whole area? But the concerns of the public go much wider than the self-interest of a few. They state the development didn’t generate enough profit for a proper 106 contribution yet they could afford to incentivise Northcliff with money! The house and grounds we were advised are valued at c £1,250,000 so it reasonable to suggest the profit generated would be way beyond that or why do it? Profits fine but we’re being kept in the dark and the planning officers must have known the true fiscal position ? If they didn’t they’re not competent. Relevant? yes, note the £500k tax payers subsidy. Then the disruption, the environmental impact on Sapiens and our fellow creatures et al. No Cardiff, the Vale inc Penarth doesn’t need more of this. Improve rail and road links to areas north of the M4 and build there. The economy needs it and the housing will be more affordable.

  18. Max Wallis says:

    …a fine officers’ report for the gullible, Huw Williams.
    Ask yourself how officders accepted DCE consultants’ report claiming not to find bats, when Northcliff/Dyfed residents reported seeing them in abundance – and Lis Burnett herself attested to a sizable colony?.
    As yourself how the officers claim the location to be “highly sustainable” so not needing the standard level of car-parking spaces – when the bus service doesn’t meet their standard (at least hourly 7am-7pm) and when there’s no foodstore within the standard 400 metres. They pointed out St Augustine’s Church, as if god substitutes for food.
    And why not check Planning Policy Wales on building on unstable ground (or flood-risk areas), before asserting that ground conditions are not a matter for the planning system?

  19. Huw Williams says:

    I am not sure why my modest effort to contribute to this debate merits such a prickly response from Dr Wallis. I think the officers’ report balanced all the items referred to and came to a reasoned recommendation having done so. However, In order to assist other readers of this string to judge for themselves whether the officers’ report was in accordance with national policy here is what Planning Policy Wales (November 2016) states at Paragraph 13.5.1 “The planning system should guide development to lessen the risk from natural or human-made hazards, including risk from land instability and land contamination. The aim is not to prevent the development of such land, though in some cases that may be the appropriate response. Rather it is to ensure that development is suitable and that the physical constraints on the land, including the anticipated impacts of climate change, are taken into account at all stages of the planning process. However, responsibility for determining the extent and effects of instability or other risk remains that of the developer. It is for the developer to ensure that the land is suitable for the development proposed, as a planning authority does not have a duty of care to landowners.” To my mind this is what the report does.

  20. Chris David says:

    Mr Williams, your post is very revealing. Obviously you are such an expert only the good doctor is worthy of merit in his criticism’s. Oh but you do assist the readers- wow thanks. You’re an expert on a deeply flawed rule book, not too mention inward investment and economics. But maybe you lack common sense, heart, business sense and vision. Possibly you’d be happy should you live there, to support for example the burning of the Indonesian rainforests- because its in the rule book palm olive plantations and greed trump the people the environment and all other creatures affected. In short you just don’t get it. Come on- even the VoG councillors not known for planning intelligence were unanimous on this one. Have a think about it.

  21. Huw Williams says:

    I have now seen Chris David’s earlier post since sending my reply to Dr Wallis and no discourtesy was intended by not replying to that post first or at the same time. I noted that the viability was assessed by the Valuation Office which is independent of the VoG. As regards Northcliffe as I read the plans they hold the key land for accessing the site and seem to have extracted a market price for potentially granting access. I do happen to believe that a rules based planning system is the best way of balancing the public interest and the rights of landowners in a democratic society. However, with respect, you have no grounds for drawing any conclusions as to my opinion on the other serious global issues you mention from my views on a small scheme to build 30 flats in Penarth.

  22. Max Wallis says:

    As I pointed out,Huw Williams did make a general statement that ground conditions are not a matter for the planning system, then omitted to answer my citing Planning Policy Wales on ground subject to flood risk. He also chose only one para. from PPW, but not the most relevant. Penarth Civic Society’s evidence quoted:
    Planning Policy Wales “13.9.1 Planning decisions need to take into account:
    • the potential hazard that instability could create to the development itself, to its occupants and to the local environment; and
    • the results of a specialist investigation and assessment by the developer to determine the stability of the ground and to identify any remedial measures required to deal with any instability.”
    The Civic Society then argued:
    No information has been presented on the resultant hazards, both in construction and during occupation, which have not been assessed. The Memo mentions risk but not hazard: “potential impacts on existing properties beneath the site”. Could slippage of the cliff destabilise adjacent land-ownings (including the Coastguard cottages) and/or damage the Custom House/ Hotel? We submit the Council needs such information to meet the first bullet point of 13.9.1. The specialist investigation of bullet point 2 is incomplete – the consultants said their desk study should be followed by site investigation via boreholes and monitoring of any movements, to determine the stability of the ground. We submit the results are needed to meet the second bullet point of 13.9.1. The remedial measures required to deal with any instability including instability of the slope outside the application area have not been identified.

    Planning chief Goldsworthy at the site visit dismissed section 13.9.1 of Welsh Policy by saying it applied to the Valleys only and that the VoG engineers say building on Northcliff’s unstable slope is OK (the written report says neither; the engineers hedge their bets, of course).

  23. Max Wallis says:

    Why should Huw Williams trust the highly criticised “viability” appraisal system? Cllr Jonathan Bird lashed into it at the meeting, and he has experience as a developer. In the Northcliffe case, the developer guessed a figure for costly foundations, core-drilled to the base of the cliff at top costings probably include substantial shoring up the cliff. We can’t know because it’s kept secret. He included prices for the houses at bottom estimates, eg. from sales of flats in the nearby apartments. The District Valuer just accepts such figures and other biases, and makes an accountants’ check. As Chris David comments: “a deeply flawed rule book”. The officers know it and know the figures are very uncertain, but skewed towards developer-profits. So why did they not set a claw-back condition, depending on the final outcome?

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