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Final decision on controversial 300-home green-field development expected by September

14 May 2022 3 minute read
The proposed development north of Grove Park with protestors (top right) and Persimmon chief Martin Smith (bottom right)

Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter

A final decision from the Welsh Government over whether 300 homes can be built near Cefn Fforest is expected within five months.

Persimmon’s plans for Grove Park have caused controversy in the community because homes would be built on a green field site outside the settlement boundary in the council’s Local Development Plan (LDP).

By Monday, May 16, a planning inspector will have visited the site near Cefn Fforest, and in approximately seven weeks they will publish a recommendations report.

Independent councillor for Blackwood, Kevin Etheridge, has questioned Welsh Government on why the Planning Inspector has to visit the site unaccompanied.

Cllr Etheridge believes local councillors and the public should be able to observe the site visit and engage with the inspector.

Cllr Etheridge is against the plans and spoke at the planning committee in 2018 when the application was refused.

He said: “It seems if they tipped a bucket of soil in Blackwood they would build on it.”

The inspector’s report will then be presented to Welsh Ministers, who will aim to make a final decision on the appeal within 12 weeks.

Therefore a final decision is expected to be announced by the Welsh Government at the end of September, 2022 – although extensions to the timeframe can be agreed when necessary by the Planning Directorate.

What has happened so far?
In October 2018, the original planning application for the development of 300 homes on a greenfield site was recommended for approval by planning officers, but it was refused by planning committee members.

Developer Persimmon still wanted to build a mixture of two, three and four bedroom houses, including 75 affordable homes in the Blackwood ward. The housebuilding company appealed the committee’s decision.

The appeal went to the Welsh Government, and the Planning Inspectorate report recommended Persimmon’s plans be approved, but the then Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James MS disagreed, and rejected the plans on October 21, 2020.

This went against the advice of the report and meant the case ended up at the High Court. It was a legal battle the Welsh Government decided wasn’t worth fighting and conceded defeat.

Therefore, the decision by Julie James MS was overturned by the courts, and the case has now been passed back to Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) for redetermination.

PEDW started the redetermination process on February 22 of this year and all interested parties – those who submitted representations previously or were involved with the inquiry – were given the opportunity to submit any further representations.

All representations were exchanged on April 13 and final comments were exchanged on April 29. This concluded the submissions of written evidence for the redetermination.

The next step is the site visit by the planning inspector.

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