Council demolished town centre shop without planning committee green light
Rhiannon James, Local Democracy Reporter
Questions over transparency have been raised after Caerphilly County Borough Council demolished a town centre shop without a decision from its own planning committee.
The former Specsavers store at 25 Cardiff Road was bought by the council in June 2019 with £250,000 of Welsh Government money.
As part of its Caerphilly 2035 project – a 15 year plan to regenerate and transform the town centre – the council wants a ‘boutique hotel’ on the site.
In March this year it announced the building was going to be demolished – without councillors having their say on the matter.
St Martins councillor James Fussell said the decision should have been more transparent.
The Plaid Cymru councillor said: “The only meeting we [local members] had was to tell us that they had a contractor to demolish the building.”
He added: “Internal departmental applications generally come through the committee, it may be they were able to do this without.”
A Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service has revealed the council was able to legally demolish the building after it served itself a demolition notice under Section 81 of the Building Act 1984.
The application for the notice took the form of a simple email sent by a council team leader and was received by Rhian Kyte, head of planning and regeneration at the council, who approved the demolition.
The way the demolition was applied for and approved is in contrast to the former GP surgery on the Lansbury Park estate, which the council bought after it closed.
That went to the planning committee and was approved by councillors who were presented with it.
More than £42,000 of funding for the demolition came from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Placemaking Grant 2021/22 – this was then matched by the council.
Money for projects supported by this particular Welsh Government grant meant it had to be spent before the end of March 2022.
Was this the reason the council decided to serve itself with a demolition notice rather than go through the planning committee?
A council spokesperson said: “A demolition notice was served under Building Regulations, but no planning application was prepared as the demolition works were permitted development.”
In law, a permitted development can be undertaken without the need to apply for planning permission.
Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO) a building can be demolished “if urgently necessary in the interests of safety or health”.
In all of the council documentation seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, nowhere is the building’s condition mentioned.
The council has not yet found a developer for the boutique hotel project after one it was in talks with is believed to have pulled out.
The spokesperson added: “We are working in partnership with Welsh Government and professional advisors to identify partners to deliver hotel accommodation within the town centre as part of the ambitious Caerphilly 2035 proposals.
“We are anticipating the report within the next few weeks and will set out the next steps when we have reviewed the content.”
A planning application will need to be submitted and approved before construction work on the hotel can begin.
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