The Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cllr Lis Burnett was accused last night by Cllr Bob Penrose (Independent Sully) of having told “a downright lie” to the council’s Planning Committee.
It happened at the final meeting of the current Labour administration’s Planning Committee before a new Vale Council is elected in next week’s local government elections.
At the meeting, the Vale Council’s Planning Committee granted the Vale Council permission for a “change of use” of the two replica mediaeval barns which form part of the “Mediaeval Village” in Cosmeston Country Park.
It will now enable the council to hire-out the barns on a commercial basis for civil wedding ceremonies 7 days a week – except for Bank Holidays. It’s anticipated that “approximately” 10 civil weddings a year will be held at the Mediaeval Village.
The proceedings began with councillors hearing an outline of the proposals from council’s planning officers who recommended, in their report, that the committee should permit the application – in effect, recommending that the council should to give permission to itself.
As a member of the public, Cllr Michael Garland of Sully Community Council appeared in person before the Planning Committee to underscore objections to the scheme which Sully Council had already made by letter.
Cllr Garland noted that the Vale Council had already listed Cosmeston Mediaeval Village as a “County Treasure” describing it as a full-scale reconstruction of the original 14th century village which once stood on the site. The village was, he said, a popular heritage attraction which was unique in Britain – and was of historical, educational and recreational importance for visitors from all over the country and abroad.
Cllr Garland pointed out that if the scheme was approved the Mediaeval Village would be closed to visitors when weddings were being held there and would deter visitors as they would not know when the Village would be open.
Traffic attending weddings will access the site through a separate entrance further south along Lavernock Road. Cllr Garland also pointed out that Vale Highways Department had described the proposed access point was “grossly substandard in terms of visibility – as it is located between two bends on Lavernock Road “.
Cllr Garland also pointed out that parking would be a problem. There were currently 210 parking spaces at Cosmeston. If 50 parking spaces were allocated for weddings and the overspill parking area – which was on soft ground which flooded in wet weather – was not used, there would be a 25% reduction in parking for the general public. The result of this – he said would be that people would park on the housing estate across the road – causing severe congestion and difficulties for emergency vehicles.
Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) spoke next – pointing out that there did not seem to be any means of notifying visitors intending to travel to Cosmeston as to whether or not the Mediaeval Village would actually be open when they arrived.
He said parking would be a problem. Last weekend when visiting with his family he had had to circle the car park to find a space.
The Planning Committee chairman Cllr Fred Johnson – presiding over his last meeting before retiring next week – then introduced as a speaker the Deputy Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cllr Lis Burnett (Labour St Augustines – but who is seeking re-election in Stanwell Ward). He explained that Cllr Burnett would be leaving the chamber after speaking and would not be participating in the ensuing debate.
Cllr Burnett told the committee that no member of the public had submitted any objection to the scheme. The matter had been openly discussed in ‘cabinet’ and at a scrutiny committee. She had met Cllr Garland for discussions at Cosmeston in August but said weddings in the replica barns had not been mentioned . She said “I do question what has caused the change of view in the intervening period” .
Cllr Burnett then made her contentious remark. She said “I know that Cllr Penrose [Cllr Bob Penrose, Independent Sully] has previously suggested handing Cosmeston over to Centre Parcs to establish one of their family resorts. I should clarify that we are categorically not talking about that scale of venture, or of limiting access”.
Cllr Burnett aimed her next barb at Cllr Kevin Mahoney (Independent Sully) saying “I don’t know how often Cllr Mahoney visits the Park now that he lives in Barry Island ….” [There were angry shouts of objection from councillors in the chamber at this point ] …but I live just up the road … and I reckon …and I reckon ..that my family visits about 500 times year”. After her 3 minute speech Cllr Burnett left the chamber.
Cllr Bob Penrose (Independent Sully) said “ First of all – and it’s not part of this committee – I would challenge the cabinet member’s [i.e. Cllr Burnett’s] statement that I suggested handing over to Centre Parcs. I’m not going to elaborate, but it’s a downright lie” .
There was a stunned silence followed by exclamations of “Whooh!” in the chamber.
Cllr Penrose also said the Planning Committee was a quasi-judicial committee which was in no way influenced by ‘cabinet’ or by scrutiny committee and said he had no idea why Cllr Burnett had brought that up.
Cllr Penrose said that the proposed separate access junction to the Mediaeval Village site had been turned down previously by the council’s Highways Department as being “unsafe”.
On the vexed issue of parking capacity, Cllr Penrose said people were parking on the neighbouring housing estates. He said of Cllr Burnett “I would challenge the cabinet member. Obviously she hasn’t walked around Cosmeston and spoken to the actual residents there – because every person I have met has thrown this one up – the complaint about the parking” .
Cllr Anthony Powell (Labour Dyfan Ward Barry) was a lot more sanguine about Cosmeston weddings.
He said when, as a tourist abroad, he saw local weddings spilling out into a village square, everyone was happy whether they were part of the wedding or not.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see!” he said
His view was endorsed by Cllr Maureen Kelly-Owen (Conservative Plymouth Ward) – making her final appearance at Planning Committee before her retirement next week.
Cllr Kelly-Owen said she was “somewhat emotionally connected ” to the park as she had been joint chairman of the original Cosmeston project before it had been developed. “We were thrilled to bits to find some mediaeval remains and I have been in love with that park ever since. I wouldn’t do a thing to damage it ” . She said weddings would “bring the place alive – it will do nothing but enhance it- and for very, very little inconvenience”.
Cllr Penrose moved a vote against “officers’ recommendation” [ i.e. against the wedding scheme] but only 5 councillors supported this and the motion was lost .
The motion to accept the officers recommendation [and therefore permit the change in use of the two barns at the Mediaeval Village ] was then carried .