Campaigners left ‘very angry’ after councillors approve Wrexham housing plan
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Campaigners fighting a controversial housing scheme in Wrexham have said they are “very angry” after councillors approved the finer details of the plans.
Residents in Rossett have been involved in a long-running battle over proposals to develop land to the north and south of Lane Farm.
Permission for the scheme on Rossett Road was initially refused by Wrexham Council’s planning committee in January 2019, but the decision was later overturned by the Welsh Government.
A reserved matters application by Castle Green Homes detailing the appearance, layout and scale of the development was also given the green light by politicians yesterday afternoon (Monday, 7 February).
It came despite more than 170 objections being raised ahead of the latest planning meeting, including concerns over the risk of flooding and road safety problems.
Members of the Rossett Focus Group, who have been campaigning against the plans, have now voiced their frustration at the decision.
They also criticised the way the meeting was run after eight councillors abstained from voting as they were told the issues they raised were not valid grounds to refuse permission.
In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, they said: “As objectors we are very angry and bitterly disappointed by the outcome of Monday’s planning committee.
“The officer report, and the advice given by both officers and the chairman during the meeting, all sought to prevent members from delving into key concerns such as flood risk, road safety and the ability of the developer to deliver vital access and safety elements on land he doesn’t control.
“Such matters are critically important to the interests of the village, and of any future residents, and are issues that a responsible planning authority would have ensured were fully addressed before further supporting the development’s progress.
“We on behalf of all the objectors are urgently taking legal advice in a bid to force WCBC planners to properly and openly investigate pedestrian safety, flooding, land ownership and other concerns before making decisions that give a green light to a 132-house estate that will contravene so many of WCBC’s own policies.”
A barrister acting on behalf of the campaign group was among those who spoke out against the scheme during the planning meeting after officers recommended approval.
He claimed the advice on flooding provided by Natural Resources Wales was “flawed” and said the proposals would increase the risk of road accidents for car drivers and pedestrians.
Rossett councillor Hugh Jones also expressed his opposition after highlighting the level of controversy it had caused in the village.
He said: “There has been a massive and overwhelming objection to the scheme and there is overwhelming concern in the community around the flooding issue.
“My concern relates to three areas in particular. The first is the issue of safety which has been referred to, secondly in relation to flooding and the third is the raft of policies that this recommendation goes against.
“My understanding is that the role of a planning team is to support the policies of the local authority and the Welsh Government.
“This actually goes against 18 planning policy guidelines so I cannot see how local authority officers can really recommend approval of these conditions in light of that.”
However, officers said most of the issues raised had already been addressed at the earlier stages of the planning process and could not be revisited.
The council’s interim head of planning policy, Matthew Phillips, said: “In terms of the issue that’s been mentioned regarding road safety, that is a matter which is covered under planning conditions.
“We’ve had a meeting with the Equalities Commission on that and there is further work being undertaken
“In terms of flooding generally, the reason why this site was granted planning permission without any concerns been raised was because the site is not in an area where planning policy or national guidance in Wales advises that development shouldn’t take place.”
He later added: “We are dealing with layout, appearance, scaling appearance here.
“We don’t have an opportunity to revisit other aspects of the scheme.”
The application was approved after seven planning committee members voted in favour.
The remaining eight councillors abstained after they were advised by committee chair Mike Morris they should not vote against the proposals unless they had valid reasons.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.