The chairman of Penarth Town Council’s planning committee – Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) – has openly queried the Vale of Glamorgan Council planning committee’s decision to approve the controversial Northcliff Lodge development
Penarth Town Council’s planning committee had recommended rejection of two successive Northcliff Lodge planning applications – but last week the Vale Council approved a revised version of the scheme.
In January, when the Vale of Glamorgan Council was Labour controlled, most of the Labour members were also said to be in favour of the scheme – despite the very low Section 106 offer and despite the fact that no “affordable housing” was to be provided on the site . However outspoken Vale councillor Gwyn Roberts swung opinion against the scheme and the eventual decision was unanimously against.
When the REVISED Northcliff Lodge application came before the now Conservative controlled administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council, the staff planning officers again (as they had in January) recommended approval of the scheme and again explained to councillors that because of legal precedents on a controversial development in Barry it would not be possible to reject the scheme on grounds low Section 106 contribution or there being no on-site “affordable housing” element. They also declared such a scheme would – under planning law – be adjudged viable even it included a 20% profit margin. The revised scheme was therefore approved by the Vale Planning Committee
Last night however (September 13th 2017 ) at the end of the Penarth Town Council’s planning committee’s business, its chairman – Cllr Humphrey – raised again the issue of Northcliff Lodge – a matter which had not been on the planning agenda.
Cllr Humphrey said “ The final comment I want to make: I have made a statement to the Vale of Glamorgan Council about the Northcliff [ i.e. Northcliff Lodge] application to the effect that [Penarth] Council is surprised and frustrated by the Vale’s decision to approve the Northcliff application with a massively-reduced Section 106 contribution .”
[PDN Note: The Northcliff Lodge developers had claimed that the scheme would not be viable if they had to pay the full amount of Section 106 moneys to the Vale Council . This money is supposed to mitigate the effects of the development, improve local facilities, improve local transport and provide more cash for local schools. The developers offered only a meagre £300,000 in a Section 106 contribution – way below what such a multi-million pound development would normally be expected to pay.Developers are also expected to allocate 40% of the homes as “affordable homes” for less well-heeled local residents – but, in negotiations with Vale Council planning officers, the Northcliff Lodge developers were relieved of that obligation too. Although SOME money will be allocated for “affordable homes“, at their request the developers are not being obliged to include any such homes on the Northcliff Lodge site itself .]
In last night’s Penarth Town Council planning committee meeting Cllr Humphrey – who is an architect by profession – claimed that “Supplementary guidance on affordable homes includes a procedure requiring developers to redesign their scheme if viability is an issue”.
In what appeared to be a direct challenge to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s staff planners, Cllr Humphrey said he had “not been able to find any evidence that this procedure had been followed and I wonder how is the need for affordable housing in Penarth to be met if developers are so easily allowed to avoid these payments”.
Cllr Humphrey said he had just come back from France and had received emails and had conversations in the street with people who were normally a-political but who had been expressing their “disgust at the £300,000″ [the low offer accepted by the Vale Council officers as the Section 106 contribution] “and what’s been described as the £1,000,000 subsidy.” [PDN Note: It was argued in the Vale Planning Committee that Vale Council-Tax Payers would – in effect – be subsidising the Northcliff Lodge development to the tune of £1,000,000 ].
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said presumably the developers had – as he put it – “got away with what they could get away with”.
At this point the Leader of Penarth Town Council Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) said he should have declared an interest in the topic and left the planning committee meeting.
[PDN Note: Cllr Cuddy declared in February 2016 that he lives almost immediately opposite the Northcliff Lodge site in Paget Place. In addition he has a planning application of his own currently under consideration – a new moderist two storey house in the grounds of his home, which has been designed by Chris Loyn, the architect of the new Northcliff Lodge development.]
Cllr Nigel Humphrey (in the chair) said he did not imagine there was any real possibility of changing the Northcliff Lodge planning consent. However, he said, “in future , both in Penarth and in the Vale we would like to say that we don’t think that has been a satisfactory response”.
Cllr Humphrey said “Penarth has been identified as one of those places with the greatest housing need – both private and affordable housing.” It was disappointing that the [ Section 106] powers which had been carefully written – had “not been followed” .
The Deputy Town Clerk said that he had been in touch with the umbrella body for local councils “One Voice Wales” on this matter. If Penarth Council wished to complain about the Northcliff Lodge decision, he advised it would have to follow the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s complaints procedure and pursue the matter through the Local Government Ombudsman.
The matter will be considered again in next week’s planning committee
[PDN Note: The Vale Planning Officers rationale for accepting the low Section 106 offer in respect of the Northcliff Lodge development is given in the report of the Vale Planning Committee decision on http://tinyurl.com/y7y8b7jq ]