THE MS for Aberconwy and Conwy councillors have voiced their disappointment that a contentious, revised application to build 49 homes on a Llandudno greenspace was granted conditional planning permission.
Anwyl Homes’ proposal is for the dwellings, 17 of which would be affordable, to be built at the corner of Bodafon Road and Nant-y-Gamar Road, Craig-y-Don.
This land, which is part of a registered historic landscape, is also based next to Ysgol Y Gogarth, a school for pupils with special educational needs aged between three and 19, and its respite accommodation, Llys Gogarth.
At a meeting on April 20, members of the Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) planning committee voted 5-2 in favour of the recommendation to grant it conditional approval, with two abstentions.
This came after Anwyl provided further evidence in relation to the impact on standards of education service and environment currently enjoyed by the school, after the committee had voted 6-5 in favour of the application being rejected on March 9.
Anwyl Homes submitted additional information to address this issue, including:
• A Boundary Treatment Plan.
• A response to the Equality Impact Assessment – Sections plan.
• A Noise Assessment Addendum.
Previous calls to reject the application also focused on the potential dangers to wildlife and land at Bodafon Fields, the impact it will have on congestion on the surrounding roads, as well as the impact it could have on Ysgol Y Gogarth and its respite centre.
A prominent argument in favour of it was that it will alleviate Conwy’s housing crisis – in February, the region was reported to have the fourth-highest number of people living in temporary accommodation in Wales and 1,643 waiting on the housing register.
Phil Dolan, managing director for Anwyl Homes Cheshire and North Wales, said the company will do its best to keep disruption to a minimum during the construction phase.
He said: “We are pleased with the council’s decision to grant planning permission and look forward to bringing much-needed new homes to the area.
“This land was already allocated for housing in the adopted Local Plan and there is a clear market demand for high quality homes in the area, including affordable properties.
“We want to reassure local residents that, as a thoughtful housebuilder, we will do everything possible to minimise disruption during construction of the new properties.”
The Aberconwy MS, Janet Finch-Saunders, was staunchly opposed to the development, having written four separate letters to the council on the subject within the last nine months.
She expressed her disappointment at the outcome, saying: “It is deeply disappointing to see the committee grant conditional planning approval to this development, despite the numerous concerns that remain, especially in relation to the impact on Ysgol Y Gogarth and Llys Gogarth.
“Furthermore, I am shocked to see such a controversial application being approved by councillors who do not represent this ward, only two weeks out from local government elections that could see many of the committee members replaced.
“I believe the correct thing would have been to allow the newly elected or re-elected councillors and committee members, after May 5 (election day), to make the decision on this important development.
“In addition to this, I am frustrated to see that this crucial committee was not held in person in the council offices, to allow members of the public to attend to review the proceedings and to avoid ICT-related issues that resulted in a councillor being required to abstain from voting.
“It is my view that future planning committee meetings should be held in person and open to the public.
“In my opinion, this approval is a serious miscarriage of planning justice.
“Given that the committee has made its decision, I would implore CCBC and all the new elected and re-elected councillors to ensure that every possible step is taken to mitigate the disruption that will be caused by this development to Ysgol Y Gogarth, and the hundreds of children and young people that continue to rely on this important facility.”
David Rowley, chair of governors at Ysgol Y Gogarth, spoke at the meeting, and urged that the Grade 3A land to be preserved for the good of the school’s pupils, of which there are more than 200.
Councillor Frank Bradfield (Craig-y-Don ward), the council’s disability champion, also spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, and called for the plans to be rejected for a second time.
He said following the outcome: “I was so disappointed at the lack of empathy and sympathy given to children who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), their families and friends, or for the professionals who care and teach disabled children at Ysgol Y Gogarth to develop them, and this professionalism has been acknowledged nationally.
“It really was quite hurtful to hear a member say we who were speaking to protect the protected rights of disabled children to education and learning were using disabled children as a leverage to oppose the developer.
“So was the mentality of that committee member, which was not challenged, but was picked up by members of the public who viewed that meeting online.
“Furthermore, the developer brought in an expert to speak on noise and building considerations which the officers supported but alas, there were no qualified experts to speak on the pertinent difficulties experienced by children who unfortunately suffer from ASD or other severe health conditions.
“There were no informed reports from the cabinet members for social care or education.
“Nor were any experts produced from the education or social services departments, or even the NHS, to enlighten members as to the difficulties experienced every day by severely affected children and the loving care and conditions needed to develop such children so that they enjoy some happiness and quality in their lives.
“I have spoken on ASD many times and what it means to families, teachers and carers; children, some of whom cannot speak, walk or control the body functions and that can be difficult the older they get.
“There was no speaker on the protected rights of disabled children under the Equality Act 2010 to be educated and cared for in accordance to their specific needs.
“Every member of the council has a responsibility towards children as a corporate parent and thankfully, that fact was mentioned in the committee.
“I have published what I said in my allowed three-minute speech to the committee, and I stand by my comments.
“But three minutes is not long enough to explain the complexities experienced by those who suffer from disabilities and what is involved by those who care, or the dangers of having a housing estate built next to the school.
“It is my hope the public take on board the potential cost to the council should any pupil refuse to attend Ysgol Y Gogarth.
“It is my sincere hope that the matter is not finished and other agencies get involved, even an investigation as to the rights or wrongs with this particular planning application, with some residents wanting a public inquiry.”
Similarly, Cllr Gareth Jones (Craig-y-Don ward) added: “It’s the wrong decision and for all of the wrong reasons.
“It simply shows how much planning regulations are out of touch with community needs and environmental issues.
“I appreciate that the construction industry is an important source of jobs and community sustainability and needs to be supported in a county that has little to offer in terms of well-paid employment, but this decision is simply compounding issues.
“The ‘affordability’ issue is not fully addressed nor clearly identified yet permission has been granted on an an assumption that it will. That is nonsense.
“This community needs to know what is being offered before granting permission.
“The grounds for refusal have been clearly presented by the objectors and in a very comprehensive and effective manner – to no avail.
“Outdated planning regulations are forcing planning authorities to act against the community and environmental needs and protection in this instance.
“This matter should have been dealt with and decided by local councillors who would know and understand the significance of this development.
“They have not been listened to because that is how the system works and inappropriate developments like these will continue to be approved in other parts of Wales unless the Welsh Government radically changes planning policies to better reflect local community and environmental needs.”
A CCBC spokesperson added: “This application, relevant planning policies and material considerations were considered by the planning committee on April 20.
“Rules, procedures and legislation in relation to remote access were followed.”
The full list of documents attached to this application (0/48610) are available on the council’s Planning Explorer page: www.conwy.gov.uk/en/Resident/Planning-Building-Control-and-Conservation/Planning-Applications/Planning-Explorer.aspx.