Concerns raised over failed ice cream parlour ‘call-in’ attempt by National Trust
Bruce Sinclair – Local Democracy Reporter
The applicant behind a scheme to turn surplus public toilets to a takeaway ice cream parlour/coffee bar has spoken out after a failed Welsh Government ‘call-in’ attempt by the National Trust.
At the June meeting of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s planning committee, members went against officer recommendations by narrowly backing the Newgale scheme, by Mike Harris, included a beach-themed small retail unit and a small rear extension for a kitchen at closed public toilets next to Newgale Campsite.
As the plan was a departure from officer recommendations, it was due to be heard at the July meeting, only for members to hear it had been subject to a potential ‘call-in’ to the Welsh Government after a request from a ‘third party,’ later revealed – following a Freedom of Information request by the applicant – to be the National Trust.
However, the Planning directorate said it did not feel the application should be called in, meaning it will be decided by national park planners at a later date.
Mr Harris feels the decision to delay the application was taken by national park officers and the committee chair, Dr Madeleine Harvard, a National Trust member.
“Dr Harvard was aware at the time that National Trust had called-in the application but did not consult with other members of the Development Management Committee.
“The source of the ‘call-in’ request, or reasons, were not known to members at the time, and fingers were being pointed at who or whom may have been responsible.”
He said the National Trust had “a clear commercial conflict of interest” in the application, with fears it is working alongside the national park “on plans to flood Newgale valley, create a lagoon on the existing campsite and remove the beachfront businesses to achieve their objectives”.
He added: “National Trust’s reasons for requesting a ‘call-in’ were extremely weak and I am aware that some members have raised concerns with the flawed process that allowed for the unnecessary delay in my application. The motives of National Trust were clearly malicious.”
A Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority spokesperson said: “The application was due to be determined at the Development Management Committee to be held on July 19.
“At the time the agenda was being finalised for that meeting the Authority was made aware of a ‘call-in’ request to the Welsh Government, which if granted would have removed the ability for the Authority to determine the application.
“The Welsh Government was consulted on timescales for their determination of the “call-in” request. The decision was made by the Chair, in consultation with officers, to defer the matter to allow Welsh Government time to consider the ‘call-in’ request.
“The identity of the person who made the ‘call-in’ request was not material to the decision to defer. The Welsh Government refused the ‘call-in’ request and advised the Authority of this on August 3.
“The application is currently proposed to be considered at the Development Management Committee meeting scheduled for September 6 and all members of the Authority have been advised of this.
“The Authority has no ‘plans to flood Newgale valley’ as is alleged but the site of the application is identified as being at increasing risk of flooding, as was reported to Members on June 7.”
A National Trust Cymru spokesperson said: “We believed that the application related to planning issues of more than local importance; the issue of flood risk and development within an area subject to coastal realignment required wider deliberation and consideration and should be determined by Welsh Ministers.”
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