200-house Cwmbran development ‘obtained by deception,’ claim
Twm Owen, Local Democracy Reporter
A community that was promised two 3G sports pitches as part of a new housing development has been told that now only one will be provided.
That has prompted one local councillor to say he was left feeling permission for the new houses was “obtained by deception”.
The state-of-the-art artificial playing surfaces had been promised in compensation for the loss of playing fields for the development of more than 200 houses in Cwmbran.
To make up for the loss of three grass pitches at the former Llantarnam Comprehensive School playing fields it was promised that two 3G pitches would be provided.
As a result, Fields in Trust, the charity that campaigns for the protection of parks and green spaces, withdrew its objection to the planning application, by Barratt Homes, paving the way for Torfaen County Borough Council’s planning committee to give the go-ahead for the new housing in 2016.
But a failure to include the “specific requirement” in the Section 106 legal agreement between developer BDW Trading Limited and the council meant the £911,000 payment from the developers as a community contribution hasn’t covered the cost of two pitches.
At the borough council’s most recent meeting officers told councillors they are now proposing one 3G pitch on the former playing fields, which are northwest of Llantarnam Primary School, with the intention that it will also include changing rooms, floodlighting, parking and vehicle access.
But although the council has just over £1 million available, due to Section 106 money from other local developments, that isn’t anticipated to meet the full cost of the project.
To make up the difference the council has applied for £3.3 million from the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund which also includes a bid for a proposed 3G pitch in the north of Torfaen.
The council is also seeking funding from Sport Wales in case its application for UK Government cash fails and says if work isn’t “substantially completed” by 2028 it would have to pay back £256,000 of the Section 106 money to the developers.
Cllr Alan Slade hit out at what he considered a failure to honour the original planning permission.
The independent councillor for Llantarnam told the full council: “As I understand it this all came about because of a planning application for what is now James Prosser Way. Certain promises were made to get Sport Wales and Fields in Trust to change their minds and two 3G pitches were promised.
“We now find out we’re not going to do that. I think this raises an important question in future about making promises to consultees and the planning committee and not following through. It is almost like obtaining planning permission by deception.”
He said the project was supposed to have been completed before 2020 and said: “I feel I’ve been misled from day one.”
He added: “Frankly I just don’t see how members can take any promises to planning meetings seriously.”
The council’s head of planning Rachel Jowitt said she and a colleage would provide a written response to Cllr Slade and said she “reiterated” an apology to him and the community for the delays which she said was due to “capacity issues” in the council’s engineering team.
The council agreed that officers can prepare a planning application and a tender exercise for a contractor to complete the project. They also agreed that the chief executive and head of education will be able to decide whether the Torfaen Leisure Trust should run the facility.
Council officer Andrew Osborne said, in response to a question from Cllr David Thomas that Llantarnam Primary School would be interested in managing the site, that no decision on its management had been made and the council would be willing to speak to “any party” interested in taking it on.
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